Monday, 8 May 2017

Judges who brought shame to the judiciary must be punished – Sagay

Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, Professor Itse Sagay has said that Judges who brought shame to the judiciary must be punished for authority, power and dignity of the judiciary to be restored.

Also to be punished, according to Prof. Sagay, are public servants n politicians who conspired to bribe and corrupt the judges.

Prof. Sagay said Senior Advocates of Nigeria ‘who shamelessly approach judges and introduce them to culture of corruption deserve harsh punishment.

Speaking in Benin City on Monday at the 2017 Annual Law Week of the Nigeria Bar Association, Edo State Branch, Prof. Sagay urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, to investigate, arrest, and jail lawyers who receive loots as fee from corrupt public servants and politicians. 

In his paper titled: “Corruption in the judiciary; the disciplinary role of the NJC vis-à-vis law enforcement agencies”, Prof Sagay said Judges must be perfect and remain the repository of honour, integrity and high moral authority.

He said when the law court across the country failed to interpret, apply and enforce the law, the existence of the any civilized society will be endangered adding that loss of confidence in the judiciary will amount to chaos and disintegration.

“No one ever expected judges to throw caution, rectitude, honour, justice and the credibility of the judiciary to the winds by selling his judgment. This is the destructive culture brought about by election petitions which has spread like epidemic through our formerly hallowed judicial system.

“The disciplinary procedures of the NJC were not set up for such crime. That is why tragically we are now experiencing judges being tried in court like common criminals. That is why the anti-corruption and security agencies have taken it upon themselves to continue from where the NJC’s authority ends.

“The bottom line is that judges enjoy no immunity from investigation, arrest, trial and conviction.

“In order to restore the authority, power and dignity of the judiciary, we must go through extra ordinary painful process of punishing those who have brought same and obliging to that sacred institution.

“Lawyers should be treated like accomplice after the fact because they share in the proceeds of the crimes of politically exposed persons and once paid from that stained loot, it becomes their life’s struggle to protect and shield the primary criminals from the consequences of their crime.”

In his keynote paper, Prof. Lawrence Atsegbua, stated that the law has failed as a tool of fighting corruption ‘because in spite of laws prescribing stiff penalties for corruption, more money than ever has been stolen from the public coffer by corrupt means.’

Atsegbua noted that all the laws against corruption would fail if disequilibrium in the social status of citizens were not met.

He said Nigerian leaders lack the political will to fight corruption a situation which has hindered socio-economic development.

Atsegbua said, “Corruption has become institutionalized in Nigeria. Despite several efforts by successive governments to curb corruption by the passage of several anti-corruption legislation, it is now clear that corruption can’t be fought solely by legal prescription.

“Fighting corruption within the rule of law in a Democratic society will fail because, the laws divergence from society environment, social and economic inequality in society, lack of implementation capacity and the gain of law breaking exceeds the loss of punishment.

“No matter the number of laws therefore passed by the National Assembly, corruption will still remain a landmark in Nigeria. 

“Unless the state start living up to its responsibilities in providing functioning health services, education, electricity, payment of salaries and gratuity as and when due, the law will fail in its quest to fight corruption in Nigeria.

“The fight against corruption in Nigeria ought to be structural leading to attitudinal change in order to make citizen aversion to corruption a matter of more conviction rather than one legal coercion”.

Chairman of the occasion and Chief Judge of Edo State, Justice Esther Ikponmwen, said corruption if not tackled may continue to hamper the growth and development of the country.

Justice Ikponmwen regretted that the judiciary has been affected by the sting of corruption noting that any act that deviates from acceptable standard of the law profession is corruption.

She said successive governments have sought to fight corrupt practices without much result unlike the ongoing corruption fight which has yielded positive outcome.

Justice Daniel Okungbowa in his paper said corruption would stop in Nigeria with the removal of immunity clause and ability to recall lawmakers.

He also prescribed the death penalty for corrupt officials.

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