22nd February, 2011
There is no individual or group better placed to assess the nationâ€™s judiciary that has come out with a damning verdict than the Nigerian Bar Association, a body of lawyers representing the legal profession in the country.
At the end of its National Executive Committee meeting held in Awka, Anambra State, at the weekend, the NBA pointedly accused the judiciary of being corrupt. In its communique issued at the end of the meeting, the association was straight to the point. It did not mince words over what many Nigerians have long suspected following recent unsavoury happenings in the judiciary.
Some of these happenings include frivolous injunctions being granted by judges to aggrieved politicians who lost out at the party primaries and the revelations that emanated from the tango between the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu and the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Isa Salami.
Injunctions granted by judges has creaated crisis and confusion regarding the selection of candidates for the forthcoming April polls by the political parties that, as things stand now, no one is sure of the actual candidates representing the parties for the polls. Similarly, the brickbat between the CJN and the president of the Court of Appeal has succeeded to a great extent in exposing the underbelly of the judiciary as corruption ridden.
So, to a great extent, the verdict by the NBA did not come to us as a surprise. Rather, it has gone to a great extent to butress our argument that the judiciary, if it is to remain as the last hope of the common man, needs immediate overhauling.
It is sad and a reflection of our dubious nature that more than three weeks after Justice Salami levelled a grievous allegation of perverting the course of justice in the trial of the Sokoto governorship election petition, the country has not deemed it fit to investigate the allegation and correct the anomaly.
Apart from the House of Representatives which has launched an investigation into the allegation, the Federal Government has not deemed it fit to look into the allegation raised by not just a judge or lawyer but the President of our appellate court.
The NBAâ€™ s communique not only brought to the open the feelings of the people over the rot in the judiciary, but it succintly described the confrontation between Katsina-Alu and Salami as a â€œtip of the icebergâ€ of the problems bedeviling the nationâ€™s temple of justice.
According to the association, the feud is a reflection of the crisis rocking the judiciary.
The NBA has done a good job by articulating the aggregate feelings of Nigerians about the rot in the judiciary and setting up a committee to investigate the rot just like the House of Representatives has done. We disagree with those arguing that the matter is subjudice and we should all keep quiet.
It is our contention that the allegation is a serious one requiring urgent intervention by the government to save the judiciary from total collapse. The corruption in the judiciary must be tackled headlong. The Federal Government should set up an independent inquiry to investigate the mess in the judiciary and restore sanity to the arm of government.