BY KUNLE OLASANMI
…..the Judiciary in the last two years under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, with respect to assessments by legal minds on the observance of the rule of law
In the last two years, just like other sectors in the Nigerian economy, the debate over how the judiciary has fared remains intense. From high profile corruption cases to controversial political cases, the judiciary has transcended series of intriguing moments in the last two years and to a large extent, defining the trajectory of the government. As a matter of fact, a renowned lawyer and senior advocate, Malam Yusuf Ali, described the judiciary as the whipping boy among the three arms of government.
Nigerians and stakeholders in the judiciary have expressed different views about the performance in the last two years of democracy under this government.
While some believed this government has done well, others are of the views that the government of President Buhari severally failed to uphold the doctrine of the rule of law which he swore to do when he assumed office.
To some, the government scores below average in the area of Rule of law.
Apart from the rule of law, stakeholders also accused the Executive arm of meddling in the affairs of other arms of government.
Malam Ali in his views said, “I must say that there are quite a number of challanges that the judiciary has had to summount. The judiciary is the third arm of the government and unfortunately, the weakest, which the other arms, especially, the executive, believes should be the whipping boy and you can see what is playing out in the last last few days.
“The legislature have their own means of how to leverage with the executive. So, it appears that people believe that the judiciary is the weakest of the three arms of government. Alot of things still need to be done and the recent challanges the judiciary has had to face is the mid-night raid of the judges homes. The raid on the homes of judges was unprecedented, we have never had that kind of experience with any member of the executive or any member of the legislature. During the raid on the homes of the judges, I made it clear then, that it was not the proper thing to do.
“We must fight corruption but we must fight corruption within the law. If because of exigencies of times we want to put the law aside, the tendency is there for us to promote chaos and anarchy because every body will now believe that I can sabotage the law and do what I think people will commend me for. We must not act with the mindset that we want to gain cheap popularity.
Let us act in accordance with the provisions of the law because that is what is sustainable and will also sustain the country”.
As regards the rule of law, the senior advocate said there is need to review its programmes and activities in the adherence to the rule of law. He however said there is room for improvement.
“I just want to say that we all know that there are challanges and these are challanges that the government should address. I believe quite honestly that there is need for the government to have another look at its programme and activities vis a vis the observance of the rule of law. There is always room for improvement in all human affairs”, he said.
To him, the judiciary is the weakest of the three arms of government.
“Yes, the judiciary is the weakest of the three arms because it does not have any coercive power”, he also said.
Another senior advocate, Mr. Paul Erokoro, accused the government of not doing enough to uphold the rule of law. According to him, it makes mockery of the law to detain someone perpetually without trial.
“The former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki has been in detention without trial for over a year and nobody is talking. We all see it as a normal thing. No, it should not be. Even, the judges that were arrested, what has happened to them. Out of the eight judges that were arrested, only two are beng prosecuted, wwhat happened to the remaining six?. I think we. Need to begin to do what is right in this country if we. Must be respected by the international community, “ he said.
A Kaduna based lawyer, Mr. Festus Okoye, in his view said the government must go beyond media trial in its ffight against corruption. According to him, tthe Judiciary has fared better in the face of challenges, especially, from the executive.
“I find it difficult to believe that someone is still in detention for more that a year without trial. What kind of image are we projecting before the outside world. We can’t continue like this. The government must learn to respect the rights of its citizens as enshrined in the constitution,” Okoye said.
However, some other lawyers share contrary views saying the impunity in government no longer exist since this administration came on board.
According to them, the judiciary has been corruption ridden before now. Even, a former Chief justice of Nigeria admitted that there are bad element among judicial officer.
Clement Akpunogoga, said something urgently needs to be done to clease the judiciary.
“If this government had failed to deal with corruption with the arrest of those judges, the future of this country is not secured.
“For the judiciary to perform better, it needs to be cleansed first and that is what was done with the arrest of those judges. We can do thing the normal way and expect a different result,” he said.
Another lawyer, Ebibah Amugopulu, said the judiciary has not performed badly in the last two years but that he hoped for a better judiciary.