Time to deport all corrupt occupants of Nigeria

Casmir Igbokwe

A few days ago, there were reports that religious officers in Saudi Arabia deported three men for being too handsome. The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vices feared that women would fall for these sexy men from the United Arab Emirates.  

Laughable as this action seems, there is a lot to learn from it. Even, the scriptures implored us to cut off any part of our body that would cause us to sin. Looking at the current happenings in Nigeria today, one can’t but conclude that the nation needs to adopt the Saudi treatment for many ills plaguing her.

Last Monday, a prosecution witness in the case involving the murder of a former Peoples Democratic Party governorship aspirant in Lagos State, Funsho Williams, told a Lagos High Court that some vital exhibits, such as blood samples, had been destroyed. The exhibits, he reportedly said, went bad because of poor refrigerating occasioned by epileptic power supply. Thus, the case has dragged on for about seven years now without any hope of justice for the bereaved family.

Is it not surprising that in this age when some countries have made the moon their second home; when cars are being primed to run on electricity instead of fuel; and when technology has gone beyond some mundane inventions, the self-styled giant of Africa cannot preserve vital blood samples because of epileptic power supply? We gloat and make noises when we attain 4000MW of electricity whereas our neighbours that are less endowed have gone far beyond that.

Mr. William’s family is not alone in this type of judicial tragedy in Nigeria. Many other similar politically-motivated killings are yet to be resolved. The case of the killing of the prominent politician in Rivers State, Marshal Harry, is one of them. Another one is the unresolved killing of the erstwhile Chieftain of the PDP, Aminasoari Dikibo. The family of the late Bola Ige, who was assassinated even as a serving minister during the administration of Olusegun Obasanjo, may be wondering now if justice will ever come their way.

Besides murder cases, our judiciary is known to have bungled a number of cases bearing mainly on corruption. It is either the case drags on for ages or the judge passes a ridiculous sentence that tends to make criminality a rewarding venture. In 2009, Justice Marcel Awokulehin of the then Federal High Court in Asaba, absolved the former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori, of all the charges levelled against him. The same Ibori is currently serving his jail term in London.

The other day, Justice Abubakar Talba of the Federal Capital Territory High Court in Abuja convicted and sentenced an assistant director in the Police Pension Office, Mr. John Yusuf, to two years imprisonment or a fine of N750, 000 for embezzling the police pension fund worth N32.8bn. Nigerians were outraged. Happily, the National Judicial Council saw through this gimmick and has suspended the judge for 12 months without pay. Some years back, the NJC had dismissed Justices Stanley Nnaji and Wilson Egbo-Egbo for some dishonourable conducts while in office.

Ironically, our judiciary appears to be on top of its game whenever there is a case involving a petty thief. Last Monday, Justice Oyejide Falola of Osogbo High Court sentenced a 31-year-old man, Kelvin Igha Ighodalo, to 45 years imprisonment without an option of fine for stealing a Sony Ericson phone belonging to Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State during the swearing-in ceremony of the governor on November 27, 2010. The phone is valued at N50, 000.

How I wish the ex-governors who stole billions of naira from their states get half of the sentence given to Mr Ighodalo. Ex-governors who were convicted of corrupt enrichment like Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and Lucky Igbinedion got a slap on the wrist. The Federal Government has even pardoned Alamieyeseigha just as it has pardoned the ex-Speaker of the House of Representatives, Salisu Buhari. Today, Buhari is a member of the governing council of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Tomorrow, Alamieyeseigha could be appointed the Pro-Chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt.

Acute corruption is at the heart of the problem of the judiciary in Nigeria. Some judges sell injunctions at will against the dictates of the code of conduct for judicial officers. Sometime last year, the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Dahiru Musdapher, wondered, “How do we explain a court of law restraining a university by an order of ex parte injunction from holding a convocation to award degrees to over 1000 graduating students just because two students who failed their examination had applied to a court for a declaration that they too were entitled to be awarded degrees?”

That is why I’m as alarmed as the Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, that a compromised judiciary will spell doom for this country. Commenting on the Rivers State PDP crisis last Monday, Soyinka had implored Nigerians not to manipulate the judiciary, “because when you do, you have chaos, you have total anarchy and you reduce the nation to a space of complete breakdown of law and order…”

This is what we need to avoid. Anarchy rules in any country that does not respect the rule of law. Somalia, Afghanistan, and Sudan are typical examples. Even if other sectors fail Nigeria, the judiciary, being the last hope of Nigerians, cannot afford to fail.

So, conscientious lawyers, judges, and all men and women of goodwill should join the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Aloma Mukhtar, to reform our criminal justice administration. We must deport judges and all the other spokes in the wheels of justice from the shores of Nigeria.                 




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