Corruption Has No Gender

The Advocate By Onikepo Braithwaite

The Advocate By Onikepo Braithwaite

The Advocate

By Onikepo Braithwaite

Supreme Court Judgements in the Gubernatorial Election Petitions

Kudos to the Supreme Court, for doing justice to the judgements that were delivered in the Gubernatorial Election Petitions last week. The Kano State Petition, in which the lead judgement was delivered by Hon. Justice John Inyang Okoro, JSC, was of particular interest to many Nigerians, partly because Kano State seemed to have the highest number of voters in the 2023 general election; again, partly because of the bizarre and contradictory judgement that was delivered by the Court of Appeal in that case, and partly because the decision of the lower courts were per incuriam, definitely going against the law and established judicial precedent. 

For those who were unhappy with the Supreme Court, because President Tinubu won the Presidential Election Petitions, I had explained time and time again, that the issues in that Petition were not new, and the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court decisions were based on established legal principles; and that, unless the laws are amended, sound judgements in cases with identical subject-matters, would always have similar outcomes. 

And, for those who may be wondering whether the Supreme Court’s decisions in the Gubernatorial cases, in which the Governors of those States retained their positions was a policy decision – to keep the Governors in place in order not to upset the apple cart – No, it doesn’t look like it had to do with policy – it appears that the decisions were mostly based on firmly established legal principles. After almost 25 years of democracy and election petitions, surely, the jurisprudence should have been well developed to the point where, based on the facts of the case, Counsel should be able to easily advice their clients on the merits or otherwise of their cases, so that unmeritorious petitions are not pursued. Instead, we see absurd situations where a Petitioner has already congratulated a Respondent on their victory, and then turns around to challenge the election! 

In the Akwa Ibom State Gubernatorial Election Petition in which Hon. Justice Helen Moronkeji Ogunwumiju, JSC delivered the lead judgement, the Petition bordered on the educational qualifications of the Respondent – a pre-election matter, already settled by established legal principles. Her Lordship’s judgement was sound. I wonder why Senior Lawyers persist in bringing issues that are dead-on-arrival, into their election petitions. The Apex Court referred to it, as a waste of judicial time – and rightfully so too. Such issues are already settled by Section 29(5) of the Electoral Act 2022 (EA), and Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended in 2023)(the Constitution), amongst others.

Again, for now, it is trite law that the issue of party nomination and sponsorship for elective office, is an intra-party, domestic matter, that is not justiciable – see Section 177(c) of the Constitution and the case of Ardo v Nyako & Ors (2014) LPELR-22878(SC) per Kumai Bayang Aka’ahs, JSC. This position, which the lower courts attempted to depart from, and wrongly too, I might add, was rightly upheld by Okoro, JSC in the Kano case. On the second issue in the Kano Petition, that of non-signing of the ballot papers, Section 63(2) of the EA is quite clear that, if a Returning Officer is satisfied that a ballot paper doesn’t bear the official mark of INEC, but was from a booklet of ballot papers given to the Presiding Officer of a particular Polling Unit in which the vote was cast for that election, notwithstanding the absence of the mark, such vote shall be counted. See the case of Buhari v INEC & Ors (2008) LPELR-814(SC) per Aloma Mariam Mukhtar, JSC (later CJN). How then, could the lower courts deduct over 165,000 votes accruing to the Appellant, on the ground that the ballot papers were not stamped and signed by INEC Officials, when they were from the same booklets used in that election?

Possibly, I will write about the highlights of the issues raised in the various Gubernatorial Election Petitions in the near future, and their judgements. People have been quick to criticise the Supreme Court, on the outcomes of some of the political cases. The truth is that, half of the critics are not even familiar with the facts of the case or the law, let alone judicial precedent. Mostly, they base their opinions on sentiments, political affiliation, ethnicity, social media, and everything else aside from what they should actually be basing their opinions upon. It also doesn’t help, that people are misguided and misinformed by us, the legal practitioners.

‘HumaniGate’: Not a Gender Issue

I have been seeing, and I must say in amazement and disgust too, some of the forwards circulating on social media, trying to trivialise the pervasive corruption problem that has bedevilled Nigeria, and turn “HumaniGate” into a gender issue concerning pretty faces! Disgraceful! The allegations of misappropriation of funds or fraudulent diversion of funds levelled against the ladies in the Humanitarian Ministry Affair (HumaniGate), has nothing to do with gender, and it is sad that, as usual, some misguided people seem to want to reduce it to a gender issue – that women cannot be put in places of authority. Hogwash! Aside from the fact that this unjustified gender profiling amounts to discrimination, contrary to Section 42(1)(a) of the Constitution (see the case of Anekwe & Anor v Nweke (2014) LPELR-22697 (SC) per Clara Bata Ogunbiyi, JSC), we are all aware that possibly 90% of all the corruption cases and maybe 70% of all the crimes committed in Nigeria, are done by men! Should we then say that all men are criminals, and shouldn’t be put in any positions of authority or trust, or positions that give men access to funds? That sounds ridiculous and absurd, doesn’t it? 

There are achievers and bad eggs in both genders and various age groups, as there are achievers and bad eggs in all tribes and races across the world. Ted Bundy, Mikhail Popkov and Dr Harry Shipman (Caucasian) and Samuel Little (African American) are some of the most notorious serial killers in the world, while Amarjeet Sada (Indian), the youngest serial killer in world, had killed three people before he was 10 years old. Aileen Wuornos and Dorothea Puente were Caucasian female serial killers, while Debra Denise Brown is a female African American serial killer, currently serving two life sentences and an additional 140 years imprisonment without the possibility of parole. 

My point? Nigeria has a terrible corruption problem, in which possibly over 50% of those placed in positions of trust and authority, male and female, old and young, from all the different zones of the country, are part of one fraudulent scheme or the other. It isn’t the exclusive preserve of any gender, tribe or age bracket. See the case of Onyekwere v State (1973) LPELR-2734(SC) per Taslim Olawale Elias, JSC (later CJN). Also see the case of Nwankwoala v FRN (2018) LPELR-43891 (SC) per Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, JSC. 

Maybe we could say that, whether male or female, not-too-young-to-run or old, successive Nigerian Governments have made some wrong choices in their selection of public office holders. Some lack the requisite knowledge and experience for their portfolios, while others already have financial clouds hanging over their heads, even before they are given their appointments. 

Imagine late US Senator John McCain’s daughter, Meghan, saying that VP Kamala Harris is proof that a woman can’t be Vice President. That is such a dense and  nonsensical blanket statement – for one, VP Harris is only one woman out of over 160 million women in USA, and over three billion women in the world! Similarly, Betta Edu and the other ladies involved in HumaniGate, are less than 10 women out of over 100 million women in Nigeria. Should we say then because Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump were not such great Presidents, it is proof that men cannot be Presidents? That is how unintelligent people sound, when they make such baseless, sexist statements. 


Like Lee Kuan Yew (LKY), the first Prime Minister of Singapore, President Bola Tinubu (PBAT) has been “handed a poor deck of cards” in terms of the condition he has met Nigeria in, and he doesn’t have to be the most perfect person in the world, to be able to turn our fortunes around. LKY certainly wasn’t perfect – he was known as a ruthless, benevolent dictator, but, he got the job done. Among the poor deck of cards that LKY and PBAT both got, is Corruption. LKY was able to eradicate corruption in Singapore. So far, PBAT has taken a step in the right direction in HumaniGate. Let’s see, if he will be able to resolve Nigeria’s corruption issue. 

By virtue of Section 15(5) of the Constitution, one of the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy, is the eradication of Corruption. As the saying goes, “Rome was not built in a day”; but, the truth is that, Rome was eventually built, construction began and was completed, how ever long it took. The first step taken by PBAT in HumaniGate is a good start, which, if followed up with the right consequences for wrongdoing, will send a strong message that it is no longer business as usual, that corruption is going out of fashion in Nigeria. 

LKY prioritised meritocracy and good leadership, and he had zero-tolerance for corruption. For instance, to fight Police corruption, instead of the old Police Anti-Corruption Branch which proved to be ineffective in the fight against corruption, because it was a department of the same agency investigating itself, a special independent investigation team was established instead. Because of LKY’s leadership, according to World Bank, Singapore has transformed from a Third World Nation with a GDP per capita of $400 in 1959 to a GDP per capita of $59,798 in 2020. 

LKY did two things, in his bid to eradicate corruption. Aside from ensuring good salaries and better working conditions for public servants to reduce the temptation for graft, corruption which was previously a low risk venture with high rewards, was made a high risk venture to those who may have considered it as an option. LKY understood that it was human nature to be greedy, and so, he made corruption less attractive with better working conditions, and even more less attractive with severe punishment if found guilty of corruption offences. Nigeria needs to take a cue from him.

Late Pastor T.B.Joshua & Others

Recently, we saw a documentary compiled by the BBC on late Pastor T.B. Joshua, and the allegations of rape and other wrongdoing levelled against him by his own followers. In a Monograph authored by my humble self a few years ago, “Issues in Building Collapse”, I discussed the collapse of Pastor Joshua’s ‘Synagogue Church of All Nations’ (SCOAN) Guest House which killed over 100 people. While SCOAN had tried to blame the building collapse on an aircraft flying too low and close to the building, a claim that the NCAA vehemently denied, the Coroner held that structural failure as a result of a combination of design and detailing errors, poor quality, slipshod construction, weak foundation etc led to the said collapse. Over 100 charges were filed against the Defendants, including Involuntary Manslaughter. Until he died, Pastor Joshua wasn’t held accountable for his wrongdoing. 

Chukwuemeka Ezeugu aka Reverend King of the ‘Christian Praying Assembly’, is on death row, having been convicted for the offence of murder of his church member, and attempted murder of five other members, having set all six of them ablaze because of their so-called immoral behaviour. Bishop Feyi Daniel of the ‘I Reign Christian Ministry’ is presently on trial for the alleged rape of two of his church members. Should we then say men should not be allowed to open churches, because these three men are alleged rapists and killers of church members? No. 

What we must say is that, there should be a better way to ensure that it is only the properly qualified that can open or lead churches, and a good system must be put in place to monitor their activities. We have seen so many churches in many African countries, where the leaders constrain their members to do all manner of nonsense. In Rwanda for example, only Pastors with a Theology Degree can start their own churches, and they must jump through some legal hoops, including obtaining certification that their proposed church buildings are structurally sound. 


It all boils down to accountability, whether from our public officials or church leaders. Corruption has absolutely nothing to do with gender, and if we say it does, then I would say that the men are the ‘Chief Corruption Offenders’! 

Two ex-Governors, Jolly Nyame and Joshua Dariye were pardoned after serving barely about three years of their reduced 12 and 10 year sentences respectively, during the Buhari administration, while Senator Orji Kalu’s corruption charges were never re-filed after he got off on a technicality. This lukewarm attitude to corruption by the State, will only fuel this evil. In Nigeria, corruption still remains a low risk, high reward venture, and it is mostly responsible for our gross underdevelopment. We are definitely very far from where we should be. 

LKY’s tough stance against corruption, and Singapore’s enactment of the 1960 Prevention of Corruption Act which was broader in scope than its predecessor, was strictly enforced against all corruption offenders, no matter who they were. Nigeria would do better to take a leaf from LKY’s book, and come down hard on corruption in order to eradicate it. 

Related Articles