Following the indictment of some judges and lawyers by the Department of State Services (DSS) for alleged corruption cases bordering on inducements by litigants, the Chief Judge of Ekiti State, Justice Ayodeji Daramola, has described the scenario as very dangerous to the fight against pilfering of public funds.
Daramola said though cases of persecution against members of the bench and bar must have been suspected, members of the legal profession must be above board as ministers in the temple of justice, particularly when it comes to the issue of financial inducements. Some judges of the Supreme Court, including Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro and Justice Ademola Adeniyi of the Federal High Court in Abuja, among others, were last year October arrested by DSS for allegedly taking bribes and were subsequently arraigned in Court by the federal government.
Daramola spoke in Ado Ekiti, on Monday at the commencement of the 2017 Law Week organized by the Nigerian Bar Association(NBA), Ado Ekiti Branch.
He was speaking on the topic: ‘Corruption: Origin , Effect and Mechanism for Curtailment’.
The Chairman of the Branch, Barrister Gbenga Adaramola, refuted the widespread impression that lawyers were not committed to fighting grafts, saying the NBA national body recently disrobed 37 lawyers for corrupt practices.
The NBA leader defended the National Judicial Council(NJC) for recalling the suspended judges, saying “they did that because the federal government was slow in its prosecution and justice delayed is justice denied. They can’t be suspended perpetually when there is no diligent prosecution”, he noted.
The CJ asserted that as much as he holds unflagging belief that the legal profession should not be rubbished , he opined that people working in the temple of justice must shun any form of inducement as
“In the last one year, the legal profession has been the butt of ridicule and jokes due mainly to exposure of involvement of judges and lawyers in corruption cases that were primarily geared to obstruct and pervert justice .
“Lawyers like Mafia Bookies and shacks, have become bagmen who now ferry bribes to judges. It is almost an impossibility for litigants to bribe judges without active involvement of lawyers.
“The bar and bench have become the focus of state agencies empowered by law to wage war against corruption. There have been insinuations in certain quarters on either ground or misguided belief that the executive is deliberately waging war against the judiciary.
“I rather don’t believe that is the issue. As much as I believe there is no perfect institution in the world, for credibility sake, the judges, like ceaser’s wife, must nevertheless be above board.
“It is high time we judicial officers understand that we cannot compete with politicians in wrongdoings, because that may put such officer to a point of no return, as politicians who committed similar offence may go to jail and come back to be elected or appointed.
“It is the corrupt activities of some few individuals among us that have put a stigma on the whole judiciary. It will take many years for us to clear the mess. Most certainly, Nigeria’s judicial system needs a thorough reappraisal, it is after this that all of us can look ourselves in the face and smile and also feel proud of the profession again”, he said.
The NBA boss added that the body was ready to protect the rights of every Nigerian by offering free legal services to poor Nigerians, describing this as the best way to give back to the society.