The Nigerian Presidency has criticised the judiciary over some of its questionable decisions in high-profile corruption and electoral cases in recent years.
The Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) expressed its displeasure with the ‘poor quality judgements’ delivered by the courts at a one-day dialogue with judges to review the performance of the judiciary.
“For a considerable period of time, PACAC has watched with alarm the increasingly deteriorating state of the Nigerian Judiciary,” the committee said in the communique it issued at the end of the meeting.
PACAC which was established in August 2015 advises the Nigerian government and sets the direction for the national anti-corruption fight.
‘Judgment without justice’
Citing the Supreme Court’s overturning of the conviction of a former governor for laundering 7-billion Naira of his state’s funds, the committee accused the judiciary of preferring technicality over the justice of cases.
Orji Uzor Kalu, a former governor of the Southeastern state of Abia who is currently serving as a senator, was found guilty of money laundering and convicted by both the High Court and the Court of Appeal but his conviction was overruled by the Supreme Court to the dismay of many Nigerians.
According to the Supreme Court, the judge who tried the case and read the judgment had been promoted to the Court of Appeal at the time he read the judgment.
The committee also accused the court of breaching the Nigerian Constitution and the citizens’ democratic rights with its decisions in the election matters in Rivers State in 2015 and both Zamfara and Bayelsa states four years later.
“The result of the outcome of these cases is that Judgment was delivered without Justice,” PACAC said.
According to it, ‘the clear preference of technicality at the expense of the justice of the case’ also frustrates the efforts of anti-corruption agencies.
While calling for effective partnership with the judiciary in the anti-corruption fight, PACAC said its concerns were born out of its love and commitment to the enthronement of justice and the rule of law.
‘Family affair’ judiciary
Participants at the one-day meeting also condemned the growing instances of appointments of relatives of senior jurists and governors as judges at the expense of other lawyers who are not so connected, describing it as a dangerous practice which is creating a ‘family affair’ judiciary.
In a related move described as undue judicial immunity to misconduct, the participants equally frowned at the attempt of judges to protect their colleagues from being investigated or tried for abuses of their offices.
Also derided was the Nigerian Bar Association for failing to inadequately discipline its members, especially senior lawyers for their unethical and unprofessional conducts, evident in improper applications, inappropriate defences for their clients and bribery of judges.
They advocated for merit, thorough scrutiny and sound professional and character considerations in the appointment of judges as solutions to the problems.
PACAC also accused the judiciary of being resistant to change as its subtle efforts to encourage reforms that will ensure justice and reduce corruption have been rebuffed.
While acknowledging the significant roles played by the bar association, labour unions, civil societies and other groups, the committee urged them to also extend their call for reforms to the judiciary where corruption was endemic.
It urged them to extend their focus beyond the executive and legislative arms to the judiciary as well.
Anti-corruption committee criticises judiciary over questionable rulings