The weighty, scandalous and damaging revelations by Wikileaks reports in the last two weeks about a possible conspiracy between some highranking judicial officers and highlyplaced government officials to subvert justice in Nigeria elicit many compelling questions that should not be left answered.
When judges are accused of having their judgments written for them by a former Federal Attorney General and Minister for Justice in favour of one party in an election petition case, it would amount to a gross error of judgment to simply dismiss the accusation with a wave of the hand.
When a senior Embassy Official confidently quoted a former Chief Justice of Nigeria as saying that judges were unduly harassed by a former president to compromise justice, it would amount to further ridiculing of the judiciary to maintain a sealed lip on the allegation. It is for this reason we commend His Lordship, former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Kutigi for coming out to state his case by dismissing what was credited to him in the leaked cables from the American embassy in Nigeria.
In all these unproved allegations, both the accusers and the accused are no small fries whose comments on important issues concerning
the judiciary should be ignored. While Wikileaks revelations may be viewed with a pitch of salt as mere unsubstantiated and unproved allegations, it is important to observe that the revelations corroborate some of the well-known nature and pattern of corrupt practices and dirty deals bedeviling the Nigerian judiciary in the last few years. It also brings to fore the allegation by the suspended President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami that attempts were made on him to subvert the course of justice on the Sokoto Election Appeal Tribunal.
Although this allegation was investigated by the National Judicial Commission (NJC) with no proof as to its veracity, not a few Nigerians believe there is no smoke without fire. We must state very quickly that the Wikileaks revelations do not call for a blanket impugning or maligning of the integrity of the entire judiciary. Without prejudice to the right of the public to criticize judicial verdicts and pronouncements, a sweeping allegation of corruption against our judges should be avoided. Incorruptible judges deserve their good names until the contrary is proved. Besides, by virtue of their exalted position, some judges seem not to have the opportunity of joining issues with their critics in the media. If they had such opportunity, they probably would have exposed the unruly antics of those who feel that justice must favour them at all cost. Small wonder Lord Hailsham once felt able to say, while speaking at a banquet in London, that there is danger in the trial of judges through irresponsible public comment. Justice, he said, is not a cloistered virtue.
Therefore, let the criticism against judges be well-informed, wellresearched and temperately expressed. Having said this, we urge our judges to avoid public conducts or social dealings which are capable of eroding public confidence in the judiciary as the last hope of the common man. Nothing destroys the confidence of the public in the judicial system than the bad behavior of judges. In Nigeria the undermining of the independence of the judiciary has been compounded by the ambitious tendency by some judges in making eccentric views on public affairs without temperance. Therefore our judges should learn from their retired or dead brothers like Justices Kayode Eso, Chukwudifu Oputa, Andrews Obaseki, Augustine Nnamani and Anthony Aniagolu who were distinguished on the Bench by intellectual versatility and enviable character.
There is no doubt that this is a trying time in the history of our country as we seem to be going back to the age of lawlessness. Where then lies our hope? Where is our future? Without going far, the answers lie in salvaging the judiciary. An impotent judiciary is a gateway to anarchy and retrogression. And it bears repeating to say that the only way to build a virile democracy and secure the future for ourselves and children is to build a courageous, fearless, impartial and vibrant judiciary.