By Kemi Kasumu and Ganiyat Bello
The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and the National Judicial Council (NJC) were recently under attacks for their respective expressions of disappointment over the raid of some judges’ homes by operatives of the Department of State Service (DSS).
One of such attacks came from the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) by which the it said it would not accept an Animal Farm agenda of the NBA and NJC.
The Muslim rights organisation in a press release signed by his director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, during the week stated that reactions of both NBA and NJC condemning the raid had exposed them as enemies of the masses.
It would be recalled that a Tsunami of criticisms greeted the raid by DSS of some judges’ homes leading to arrest of seven of them now being further investigated. The NBA condemned the security agents’ action asking for immediate release of the judges while the NJC in a statement read by his chairman and Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mohammed Mahmoud, described it as shocking and disappointing. Both bodies strongly condemned the raids and expressed solidarity with the affected judges such that some sections of the judiciary called for a strike.
But MURIC described their actions as wrong even as Professor Ishaq Akintola, in the release, said that a lot of activities that were sore to the eye and the ear had been going on secretly but some of them openly and then made reference to what happened in Bayelsa and Ekiti states where, according to him, judges were abused without action taken by NBA.
Akintola ventilated the concern of MURIC saying, “Their reactions expose them as enemies of the masses. We say ‘NO’ to their Animal Farm agenda.
“Poor Nigerians who are at the receiving end of the impact of corruption on the citizenry know better. They know that corrupt judges who shield those who siphon public funds are the worst enemies of the people. There is no gainsaying the fact that corruption has been responsible for the poor state of our infrastructure and that poor infrastructure has kept Nigeria decades behind developed countries. It is responsible for the grinding poverty in the Nigerian society.
“Judges who hobnob with kleptomaniacs make it possible for them to escape justice and still enjoy their loot. If corrupt politicians have the noun ‘thief’, judges who aid and abet them are the ones who empower the thieves with the verb ‘to steal’. Corrupt judges are therefore the worst enemies of society and a threat to democracy.
“Some Nigerian judges treat thieves with honour and some rulings are so astonishing that they give the judges away. A pensions executive who misappropriated a whopping sum of N32 billion was fined a paltry sum of N2 million. A Nigerian judge gave James Ibori a clean slate in spite of 172 criminal charges. Another judge who managed to find Lucky Igbinedion guilty of stealing N25 billion fined him N3.5 million only! Nigerian judges freed Alamiesiagha but he was taught the lesson of his life by a British judge. These ludicrous judicial pronouncements merely succeed in perpetuating crime.
“MURIC is unimpressed with the response of the NBA to the raid on the homes of some judges. What did NBA say or do when Governor Dickson led thugs to attack a judge in Bayelsa? Was NBA on sabbatical when Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State reportedly slapped a high court judge? Where was NBA when Justice Ayo Salami was rough-handled and suspended from the bench? Was it not because he allegedly refused to collect bribe from the then Jonathan government?
“The recent claim by the Civil Society Network Against Corruption, (CISNAC), that contrary to the claim of the NJC, there are at least 12 other petitions against many judges, all of which, the group said, were not appropriately treated by the council speaks volumes. The fact that NJC gave soft landing to some of the judges recently investigated by the council also leaves sour tastes in the mouth.
“We call on both the NJC and NBA to stand up to be counted with other patriotic Nigerians in the fight against corruption. Judges are not angels. They are human beings like the rest of us and if it is true that the law is no respecter of persons, should the same law respect lawyers and judges? Should we have separate laws for judges simply because they belong to the judiciary? What stops law enforcement agents from raiding suspected judges homes when the homes of many innocent Nigerians are known to have been raided before?
“MURIC calls on Nigerians to resist any attempt by the NJC and NBA to create George Orwell’s Animal Farm scenario. Nigerians should be on the tip-toes of the actualization of the principle of equality before the law. There is no “Four legs good, two legs better” here. It must never happen. Nigeria has only one constitution and judges and lawyers must submit themselves to the superiority of that single constitution. We say capital ‘NO’ to any Animal Farm agenda,” MURIC said in the release.