What Nigeria’s judiciary should learn from Ghana, particularly now

Nigeria’s foremost anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has accused another Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Joseph Nwobike, of bribing Justice Mohammed Yunusa, a Federal High Court Judge and the subject of another bribery case. The EFCC alleged that Joseph Nwobike paid N750,000 into the account of the Judge, while also paying N300,000 into the account of another Judge of the Federal High Court of Nigeria. This case is the latest in a string of corruption cases in the Nigerian legal system.

Nigeria’s corrupt SANs?

Last month, another SAN, Ricky Tarfa was alleged to have bribed the same Justice Yunusa N 225,000 at a time when the said Judge was meant to sit in on an “Obstruction of Justice” case involving Mr. Tarfa. The SAN concerned went to court with about 90 other SANs in an attempt to get the case thrown out of court, which did not happen. Ricky Tarfa had earlier said the money was a donation towards Yunusa’s father-in-law’s burial ceremony, which he thought was a justifiable explanation, strangely. However, in a u-turn yesterday he claimed the money was not for Justice Yunusa, but for an employee of his, whose name is also Yunusa. Very clever, right? These cases of corruption have seemingly laid bare a festering wound in the nation’s legal system and called into question the competence of Nigerian ‘Senior Advocates’. It also represents the first time there’s been a major focus on Nigeria’s judiciary processes, drawing comparisons with Ghana’s anti-corruption purge of its judiciary last year.

Corruption among Ghana’s judges

Two years ago, a Ghanaian investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, went undercover to bring to light cases of corruption in the country’s judiciary. Under the guise of different identities, Anas recorded videos of about 34 High Court Judges accepting bribes (and in one case a goat) in exchange for them passing lower sentences. He then released a documentary last year about the videos and his findings, sparking widespread anger and criticism from Ghanaians towards their judiciary. His documentary prompted the Ghanaian Attorney General to first grant the journalist immunity from prosecution, then to request for a full investigation into the bribery cases. The move was generally well-received from the people and served to prove that not all eggs in the country’s judiciary were bad.

Where is the NBA?

Though EFCC’s plan to unravel corruption in Nigeria’s judiciary is similar to Anas Aremeyaw’s efforts, it seems that is where all similarity ends. When President Buhari announced, in January this year, that the country’s judiciary was his “biggest headache” in his war against corruption, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Nigeria’s judiciary umbrella body, was quick to issue a statement calling Buhari’s statement disrespectful towards the judiciary. That Buhari called out the whole judiciary was seen in some quarters as a very bad idea. However, now that the EFCC is seemingly uncovering cases of corruption within the body, it seems strange that neither the NBA nor the country’s Attorney General has said or done anything to make it seem like the Judiciary really is against corruption. Coupled with the fact that 90 SANs, the most prestigious title for Nigerian lawyers, followed another to court for a case of bribery, these investigations call into question the whole integrity of the judiciary. Nigeria’s judiciary needs to stand up and be counted in its stance against corruption, or its people will have to assume they have a wholly corrupt legal system.

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