Assault on Judiciary: Some Nigerians Mixing Up Issues

0

Ring True

with Yemi Adebowale; yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521 (Text only)

My position has always been that corruption investigation should be conducted discreetly, and if a prima facie case is established, the suspect should be charged to court. This is the only way we can preserve revered institutions like the judiciary. If a judge is suspected to be corrupt, probe him unnoticeably, and if you have concrete evidence, then, prosecute him. This is the global standard. The recent assault on the judiciary and subsequent media trial by the Department of State Security run contrary to the principle of decency. Must we pull down an entire institution because we are fighting corruption?

Some Nigerians have already concluded that the judges involved are corrupt and that the crude deal they are getting in the hands of the DSS is justifiable. These unapprised people have been clapping for the DSS. This is outlandish. First, the affected judges remain suspects until proved guilty by a court of law. Only a court of law can pronounce them guilty. This idea of hooded men storming the homes of judges fully armed and forcing them to sign documents is terrorism. We must not allow this to continue in a democracy. Terrorism, dictatorship and anarchy are evils far greater than corruption.
It is not about the affected judges being corrupt or not. Genuine patriots must stand up against the assault on our constitution by the DSS. We must stand up against terrorism and dictatorship. We must not allow an arm of government to emasculate another arm of government. This is what the executive has been trying to do with the so-called crackdown on the judiciary. Our constitution clearly states the body responsible for punishing rogue judges. That body is the National Judicial Council. The only body constitutionally-allowed to handle complaints against judges is the NJC. The constitutional principle of Separation of Powers must be strictly adhered to; otherwise, there will be anarchy, an evil far larger than corruption. We must all consistently remind ourselves that the NJC was established by the constitution, and the DSS belongs to the Presidency.

I am happy that the NJC has refused to be intimidated by the executive arm of government. The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed, who also heads the NJC, needs the support of all patriots in this war against attempts to cow the judiciary. If the NJC succumbs to the executive, the judiciary will lose its independence and become a tool of oppression in the hands of the executive.
The CJN and the NJC have so far shown great courage in this war against moves by the executive to undermine the judiciary. The NJC remarked in a recent statement: “Under the powers provided by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and as the Head of the Third Arm of Government, the Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman, National Judicial Council, Honourable Justice Mahmud Mohammed, GCON is calling on all Nigerians to continue to have faith and full confidence in the Nigerian Judiciary. The Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria also wishes to state in clear terms that the ‘sting’ operations carried out by the DSS on 07 and 08 October 2016 were certainly an assault on the independence of the Nigerian Judiciary.”

The leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association has been a big embarrassment in this war against the judiciary. It is absurd that the NBA is asking judges being probed by the DSS to step aside, despite knowing that the NJC is the only constitutionally-recognised body for penalising judges. The NBA leadership is simply asking the NJC to abdicate its constitutional responsibility. Suspending judges pending investigations by the NJC would amount to a breach of its regulations. We need to remind the NBA leadership that its position breaches the 2014 Revised Judicial Discipline Regulations formulated by NJC pursuant to Section 160 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended. The NBA is asking the NJC to surrender its authority to another institution, which would be contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian constitution. By the provisions of Section 158 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, NJC shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other authority or person while exercising its disciplinary power of control over judicial officers in the Federation. It is disheartening that the NBA is advocating a system of presumption of guilt, which is contrary to our constitution. Section 36(5) of the 1999 Constitution states that every person charged with a criminal offence should be presumed innocent until proved guilty.

Today, I want all of us to reflect deeply on the position of elder statesman, erudite lawyer and Chairman of The Patriots, Professor Ben Nwabueze, on the assault on the judiciary by the executive. He stated: “What has been going on for the past 12 years since the enactment of the EFCC Act to today, all in the name of war against corruption, is wrong. I keep on saying that while we fight the monster of corruption, as vigorously as we can, let us not do it at the expense of our constitution, which is the charter of our corporate existence. We cannot afford to do away with our constitution in the name of war against corruption because if we do that we will create a worse monster than corruption – anarchy, which is total breakdown of law and order.
“Can you imagine a Supreme Court justice being coerced to sign a document against his will? How can that happen in a constitutional democracy? Compelling a judge or anyone to sign a document at gun point, is that not terror? It is state terrorism. Some are making noise saying that judges are not sacred cows. Nobody says they are sacred cows, but they are not like you and me. They are not common people. Not because there is anything special in their personality but because they represent an institution, the judiciary, the Third Estate of the Realm; don’t destroy that institution.”
This is food for thought for all of us this morning.

Is Aisha Alhassan Still Women Affairs Minister?
Our Women Affairs Minister, Aisha Alhassan has not thought it wise to utter a single word on the travails of little Habiba Isiyaku (Now 15 years old) who was abducted over two months ago in Warkaza, Kudun Kankara Local Government Area of Katsina State and married out by force. I doubt if Mama Taraba, as this Women Affairs Minister is called, knows that it is part of her responsibilities to fight against cruelty to women and minors like little Habiba. In sane societies, the likes of Mama Taraba will be leading the struggle to rescue little Habiba. Unfortunately, she has chosen to look the other way while little Habiba remains in captivity. We need to remind Mama Taraba that the Child Rights Act of 2003 prohibits child marriage. In this instance, there was also no parental consent. This is against Islamic doctrine.
Just as Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) remarked, “it is disgraceful that the country’s top cabinet level appointee responsible for Women Affairs could afford to maintain undignified silence in the face of the uproarious controversy linked to the alleged abduction, forced conversion and illegal marriage of a minor without parental consent only because the accused culprit is a first-class traditional ruler in the home state of the current President of Nigeria.”
HURIWA added: “It is morally and legally repugnant that the Nigerian Presidency; the office of the Inspector General of Police and that of the Federal Attorney General and Minister of Justice are not concerned about the ordeals of a 14-year-old child bride who was forcefully conscripted into another religion other than her parents and worst still, converted to a child bride amidst her parents protestations.”
For me, it is not enough to rescue little Habiba. All the people involved in this child bride saga in Katsina State must be arrested and prosecuted irrespective of their status. Nobody is above the law. Meanwhile, little Habiba’s father (Tanko Isiyaku) who has relocated to Abuja for safety reasons, is now a psychological wreck. He has developed hypertension.

Buratai Should Respond Appropriately to Ghashghar Attack
The Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj.-Gen. Lucky Irabor on Wednesday finally confirmed that several Nigerian soldiers went missing after Boko Haram attacked a military base in Ghashghar town, in Mobbar LG of Borno State about two weeks ago. Irabor said that a sizeable number of the 39 soldiers declared missing had returned. He also admitted that a few soldiers were yet to be found. However, Irabor was silent on the number of soldiers speculated to have died in the attack. At least, to some extent, he was honest. The Acting Director of Army Public Relations, Colonel Usman Sani was not. He decided to play politics with the lives of our gallant soldiers. Sani sent a text to a colleague of mine last week Friday, saying that no soldier went missing. “It is not true,” he said in the text message in reaction to our enquiry. We cannot make progress in this war against Boko Haram if we continue being economical with the truth.
Just as I said last week, the Ghashghar attack highlights the threat the group still poses in the region. Boko Haram is still very active in Mobbar, Abadam and Chibok local government areas of Borno State. All these talks about “having decimated the terrorists” are all propaganda. This war is far from over. Clearly, the military is still battling for control despite making gains against the terrorists. This is a fact we must face, and respond fittingly. I am still waiting for the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai to react appropriately to the Ghashghar attack. The story in town is that our soldiers were ill-equipped to face the Boko Haram fighters that attacked Ghashghar. Buratai has to do something very fast about this issue of equipment. He also has to do something very fast about the low morale of our soldiers. There are allegations that soldiers are being cheated by their commanders who fail to pay their allowances in full, particularly feeding allowances.

If Fani-Kayode Dies in Detention…
The prosecution of former aviation minister and spokesman of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, Femi Fani-Kayode by the EFCC is fast turning into persecution. The re-arrest of this man by the anti-graft agency is unjustifiable and a crude power show. It is also a confirmation of the speculation that the EFCC has a mandate to keep him out of circulation. Filing fresh charges against him in another Federal High Court is an abuse of court process. The global standard is for the EFCC to amend and consolidate all the charges against him in the ongoing trial at the Lagos Federal High Court. That was exactly what the Chief Judge of the FCT, Justice Ishaq Bello did recently in the case of Sambo Dasuki, the former National Security Adviser. Justice Bello did this after over a year of filing multiple charges against Dasuki in three different courts.
I just pray Fani-Kayode does not die in detention. The crisis that will follow this will be too much for our fragile polity to handle. The other day, he was illegally detained for almost three months. This morning, I urge the EFCC to consolidate all the charges against him and stop re-enforcing the impression that the agency is simply out to keep this former minister out of circulation. We are in a democracy. Fani-Kayode should be allowed to enjoy his bail.