The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, PACAC, Prof. Itse Sagay, on Wednesday averred that the nation’s judiciary had lost its glory and needed “redemption” from its “transgressions”.
This was as he criticised the decision of the National Judicial Council, NJC, to recall judges being investigated for corruption, stating that the council’s decision may “undermine the integrity of the state”.
Sagay alleged that one of the recalled judges, whose name he did not mention, was notorious for making financial demands from lawyers and accepting gratifications, insisting that such a judge should not be allowed to remain on the Bench.
He described the move by the NJC as a dangerous precedent that may affect the future of the country owing to the importance of the judges in the affairs of the country.
Speaking at a three-day conference on ‘Promoting International Cooperation in Combating Illicit Financial Flows and Enhancing Asset Recovery to Foster Sustainable Development’, Sagay said the judiciary is not on board with the federal government’s fight against corruption.
His words, “This decision by the NJC that judges who were arrested, and those who are on trial like Ademola, whose case is a life case, and others who have not been charged, but are going to be charged, calling them back is for me a sign of hostility to the fight against corruption.
“We cannot afford the judicial hierarchy to engage in espirit de corps with members of their group that are falling in the corruption struggle.
“They must join the executive whose mantra is total or near elimination of corruption for the sake of the survival of this country. Judges have a duty to join in this determination.
“So, that sort of decision that was taken gives the impression that they are hostile to the struggle. That’s one reason why I said they’re not on board.
“The judiciary, in my view, is the highest of the three arms of government. They are the only ones who adjudicate the disagreement between the other two. If you look at the set-up of the court they sit high above others and everybody is looking up at them.
“The rest of us apply, move, plead and they decide, and there’s no democracy about their decision. Their decision is binding. Calling them my lord is not an accident. After God, members of that group are the smaller lords.
“The judge who is guilty of corruption is almost guilty of a crime against humanity, because what he is doing is to undermine the whole integrity of the state. It means that when we have a major issue that can affect the future of the country, we can’t go to him, because he’s dishonest, he lacks integrity and is fraudulent and will not decide the case according to the justice of it.”
He however assured that PACAC would continue to engage with the judiciary to make judges realise that the country’s future is bleak if they do not join the battle.
“We interact with judges a lot, from the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) to the magistrates. We’ve visited most of them, and we’ll keep on visiting and talking and persuading them to realise that it is in their own interest to be as fervent and determined and passionate about elimiminating the sourge of corruption, and that any of their brethren who is suspected to be guilty of corruption is a destroyer of
all that the judiciary stands for. He’s an enemy of the judiciary.
“The judiciary, in my view, is the highest of the three arms of government. When a judge descends from that level and comes into the mud to join in looting and accepting money from lawyers who have no name to protect, the judicial hierarchy, the clean ones should come down hard on such judges, harder than the poor man who is sentenced everyday for stealing
“The judge who is guilty of corruption is almost guilty of a crime against humanity, because what he is doing is to undermine the whole integrity of the state.
“It means that when we have a major issue that can affect the future of the country, we can’t go to him, because he’s dishonest, he lacks integrity and is fraudulent and will not decide the case according to the justice of it.
“So it’s a very dangerous thing that is happening now and the judges must embrace the fight against corruption, otherwise this country has no future,” Sagay said.