The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, AGF, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, Tuesday said the government of President Muhammadu Buhari will actively promote and ensure that corrupt judges are prosecuted and their illegally acquired assets are returned to the State.
Malami who was the Special Guest at the presentation of the report titled : “Go Home And Sin No More: Corrupt Judges Escaping from Justice in Nigeria”, observed that considering the pivotal role Judges play in the administration of justice, it is important to ensure that Nigerian Judges live above board.
The AGF, represented by Senior Special Assistant,(White Collar Crimes) Abiodun Aikomo, noted that gone are the days when corrupt judges escaped from justice in Nigeria.
He said: “I can assure you today that in line with the cardinal agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, the office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation shall ensure that every appearance of corruption in the judiciary is dealt with among other measures through criminal prosecution and forfeiture to the State of illegally acquired assets.”
According to Malami, “Acts of judicial impunity will also not be condoned, so that our Judges can be judicially accountable at all times in a corruption-free judiciary which is both independent and impartial. All these, shall be achieved, (together with partners like SERAP), without violating the fundamental human rights of the persons involved, and in line with rule of law and international best practices. That would be this administration’s own way of saying: Go and sin no more…!”
He noted that the only mandate of the judiciary, “should be to deliver justice without fear or favour, affection or ill-will. The world over, the rule of law, and separation of powers which are inseparable components of a democratic government, presupposes the existence of an independent and impartial judiciary.
“Unfortunately the trust reposed in the Nigerian Judiciary is often betrayed on the altar of corruption or other conducts incompatible with the exalted office of a Judge. Though, there have been cases of removal of some judges for acts unbecoming of judicial officers, often times upon the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC) in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) (1999 Constitution) which empowers the President to remove a judicial officer from office on the recommendation of NJC.
“Nevertheless, in reality, on a comparison between the widely reported cases of corruption in the Judiciary vis-à-vis the records of judicial officers who have actually been punished therefore, it would appear as if Nigerian judges enjoy total immunity from prosecution for corruption (and allied offences), whereas judges are not immune from discipline for any misdeed let alone for corruption.” He added.
The Lagos State Chief Judge, Justice Olufunmilayo Atilade said both the Bar and Bench have the duty and collective responsibilities towards dispensation of justice and corrupt free society.
Represented by Magistrate Busola Okunuga, deputy chief registrar, the CJ noted, there are several mechanism put in place by the judiciary to checkmate corruption and corrupt practices in the judiciary.
SERAP executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni said : “Corrupt judges are more dangerous to the society than corrupt politicians because a corrupt judiciary denies both victims of corruption and those accused of corruption access to an independent, impartial and fair adjudication process.
He disclosed that SERAP looks forward to working with the Attorney General of the Federation to ensure the full implementation of the recommendations contained in their report.
The report among other thing is calling for: the prosecution of corrupt judges; referral by the Chief Justice of the Federation and the National Judicial Council of all cases of judicial corruption to appropriate anticorruption agencies; publication and auditing of spending by the judiciary; public and periodic disclosure of assets by the Chief Justice of Nigeria and all other judges; retired judges should be allowed to lead the National Judicial Council to improve its independence; and urgent investigation of allegations of age falsification among judges by the National Judicial Council.
The report also calls on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to proactively and robustly use their statutory powers to investigate and prosecute judicial corruption and to request from the National Judicial Council files on cases of corrupt judges for prosecution.