Chief Mike Ozekhome, a senior advocate, in this interview with KUNLE OLASANMI, speaks on the powers of the anti-graft agencies and the need for the National Judicial Council (NJC) to assert its authority.
What is your view on allegations of corruption in the judiciary?
Sections 120 to129 of the 1999 Constitution are the functions of the Accountant General and the Auditor General who have a duty to audit the accounts or look into whether there has been appropriation or misappropriation after the seal of the revenue under Section 162 of the Constitution. Whereas, if you allowed EFCC, they will be going from state to state to look at their books, whereas that is not their function.
To prevent such occurrences, will you suggest that NJC should set up an investigative panel?
The solution is that the NJC should not be a sleeping giant, but rather, a volcanic eruption. When cases are reported, they should quickly look into the cases and dispense justice. Justice delayed is justice denied, just as justice rushed is justice crushed. There must be a balance between the two. For instance, you cannot sit on an issue and expect an implosion not to occur. I do not believe that the NJC is guilty this time, because from what I heard, elders intervened and they said let us see how we can settle this matter. There is nothing that cannot be settle. It is not a crime to say let us negotiate and reconcile. The most heated wars in the world were settle. That was why in 1918, after the first world war, the treaty of Brussels had to be signed in France where Germany was blamed for holocaust and everything. But the fact that the reconciliation was not thorough and was not also deep seated led to the League of Nations which again led to the United Nation Organization in 1945 because a second world war broke out when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were attacked.
There is an on going conflict between the NASS and INEC over sequence of election. How will you react to this?
The only power the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has are the ones it can exercise under the Electoral Act. NASS passes Electoral Act. The only thing NASS cannot do is to amend the Electoral Act in less than six months to the election. That will mean there is an alterior motive, but the next election is about 14 months away. So the National Assembly under Section 4 of the Constitution is performing its duties to make law for the peace, order and good governance of Nigeria. INEC’s elections is just a part of it.
I agree with the order of election as proposed in the new Electoral Act Amendment because if you make the Presidential election to come first, the fear of Presidential candidate is the beginning of wisdom. So, all Senators, House Representatives members and all governors will be raided in to support Mr. President so that they will not be crushed. But, if you now fix it vice versa, then the presidential candiate will start cultivating the lesser mortals for democracy to deep in and widen. I believe this is the way to go. Let the presidential election come first. After all, he is the big masquerade. So let us use the other lower ones to test the first three weeks so that there will not be band wagon effect. That is what the NASS wants to do and I totally agree with NASS.
Deputy Senate President once warned that a military Coup could be possible because of the way things are going on in the country, what is your take on this?
Sure,he is right. Although, I do not support a military take over for the simple reason that it conscripts the democratic space,the point must be made that they watch and study the political temperature,using the barometer of lack of democracy dividends,blatant violation of human rights,rule of law and total abnegatio of democratic concepts to budge the mood of the people. Ekweremadu should be commended for this timely warning. Nigerians have never been so democratically trashed as now.
There are calls for jury trial system on the grounds that it will fast track adjudication of corruption cases if introduced, how would you react to this?
I am not aware it will.It may even corrupt it.A jury system involves direct participation by the common people on a trial.With the current ravaging hunger and poverty,ethnoreligious hate,deep seated schism and divisiveness,it will be very easy for money bags and politicians to buy off the conscience of many justices. Justice will be skewed,bastardised and will be for the highest.
Prof. Sagay recently alleged that SANs are the ones aiding and abetting corruption in the judiciary, do you share this view?
Well, he is perfectly entitled to his opinion. But I expect him to name the SANs, or he should be kind enough to stop class defamation.There is no need libelling a whole class of respected Nigerians because you are in power.Last time, it was the politicians that corrupt the judges.Then,the judges corrupted themselves. Now,it is SANs that corrupt judges. In any case,why should any respected judge who has taken the oath of office allow himself to be “corrupted” ?
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