Justice Dahiru Musdapher
The immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Dahiru Musdapher, Thursday warned that the Boko Haram insurgency and other social upheavals threatening the survival of the country are indications of a failing state.
Musdapher, who delivered the second annual lecture and book presentation of the National Mirror in Lagos, said he was worried by the scourge of terrorism that has posed a great challenge to the Nigerian state.
According to the former CJN who spoke on the topic titled: “Media and the Judiciary: The Necessary Symbiosis,” “More than ever before in the history of Nigeria, the scourge of terrorism poses a great challenge to the Nigerian State. Our slide into anarchy has assumed dangerous dimensions, perhaps, beyond the capacity of our security agencies to deal with the menace effectively.
“The Boko Haram insurgency, political violence, corruption, nepotism, tribalism, indiscipline, abduction and kidnappings, armed robbery, murder and extortions, bombings of places of worship are all indicators of a failing state.
“These social upheavals clearly threaten the survival of the Nigerian nation and we all have a duty to rise and stem the tide.
Musdapher, who was the guest lecturer, told the audience comprising members of the legal profession and the media that the country was in a grave situation that required its best collective effort to surmount.
According to him, “Our capacity to investigate, arrest, prosecute and convict those found guilty of contravening our laws is evidently weak and compromised; yet no one is held responsible.
“There is no objectivity in national discourse. Most newspaper articles and reports reveal an underlying sentimental pull that seems to outweigh the values of simple decency.”
Musdapher added: “If a person is accused of wrongdoing in Nigeria, his kinsmen are quick to relegate his clear transgressions to some kind of conspiracy against one of their own.
“Corruption and nepotism is supported and encouraged by its benefactors at the expense of all others. When a person occupies a position of authority he is expected to ‘help his own’.
“The same people that complain about the impropriety of others become even more blatant when their so called turn comes.”
He wondered how the public could become accountable to such misdeeds under such circumstances.
“How can we continue to run a political system that seems to tacitly accept, promote and encourage the very ‘corruption’ we all complain about?
“Today, we have media houses and newspapers that blatantly promote sectional interests and ideas in line with the narrower interests of their preferred constituency against the Nigerian nation.
“Nigeria is clearly a nation at war with itself. The path we are treading is a threat to the continued peace, unity and prosperity of this land we call our home,” he noted.
On the relationship between the judiciary and the media, he said it was necessary for the third arm of the government and the fourth estate of the realm to co-exist in a healthy and productive relationship.
“Fundamentally, it is important to understand that the powers or freedoms enjoyed by both the media and the judiciary are mutually reinforcing.
“While the courts through various pronouncements and decisions properly define the rights and freedoms of the media under our laws, it is the media that projects and oftentimes reinforces public confidence in a judicial action.
“This unwritten arrangement is a crucial link in every democracy and when it fails, the result is anarchy,” he said.
The retired jurist also called for the creation of an independent body to handle investigations into allegations of misconduct and corruption against judicial officials as well as to enforce the judicial code of conduct among them.
If his suggestion is adopted, the National Judicial Council (NJC), which is currently saddled with the responsibility of enforcing discipline on the bench, will cede such powers to the new agency because it is saddled with too many tasks, as presently constituted.
He said an independent institution with adequate statutory safeguards might be better positioned to deal with the issues of discipline and removal as opposed to an institution that is largely managed by those it is supposed to regulate.
“The time has come for the creation of a separate institution responsible for investigating allegations of judicial misconduct, corruption, enforcing the code of conduct for judicial officers, discipline and removal.
“Please consider that thoroughly investigating petitions and allegations of impropriety against judicial officers as well as contraventions of the judicial code of conduct is too cumbersome for the National Judicial Council when viewed against the other responsibilities of the council.
“I strongly believe that the creation of such an institution is the only way to properly focus on the problem of judicial corruption in Nigeria as it has been adopted in several common law jurisdictions,” he said.