Judicial rascality is a term used to describe the misconduct of Judges, including corruption, bias, and incompetence. It is a serious problem in Nigeria, where the judiciary is often seen as corrupt and ineffective. A distressing trend of judicial rascality and misconduct has plagued the Nigerian judiciary, casting a gloomy shadow over the nation’s legal system.
One prominent case that exemplifies this alarming phenomenon is that of Peter Odili, the former governor of Rivers State, who got a court injunction preventing any institution in Nigeria from investigating him when he was governor of Rivers from 1999 to 2007.
Recently In a valedictory session for outgoing senators of the 9th National Assembly, chaired by Ahmed Lawan, former Senate President, on Monday, Senator Bulkachuwa, representing Bauchi North senatorial district, gave a rather disturbing revelation about how he used his influence to prevail over his wife, Rtd. Justice Bulkachuwa, to give judgement in his favour or those that serve the interests of his friends. These and many more have further widened the trust deficit between Nigerians and the courts.
Peter Odili was Accused
Peter Odili, former governor of Rivers State, was accused of embezzling billions of dollars into his personal accounts during his tenure from 1999 to 2007, according to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Surprisingly, Odili keeps gaining influence in South-South politics and enjoys complete immunity thanks to a court decision that issued a permanent injunction shielding him from prosecution. This trend is disturbing because his wife, Mary Odili, was a judge at the Court of Appeal when the injunction was issued, raising serious questions about the case’s integrity.
Adding fuel to the fire, Odili unapologetically boasted about his actions in his book, “Conscience and History: My Story,” further highlighting the severity of the allegations against him. These revelations have cast a dark shadow over the credibility of the political system and the judiciary.
In a March 2008 article, UK-based news organisation Reuters reported, “The former governor of Nigeria’s richest oil state secured a ‘perpetual injunction’ against arrest by the anti-corruption police in a court ruling on Wednesday. For eight years until May 2007, Peter Odili oversaw the administration of Rivers State, which has an annual budget well over $1 billion and an estimated 5 million citizens who lack access to electricity, clean water, and functional schools and clinics.”
The far-reaching consequences of the permanent injunction have hindered efforts to hold Odili accountable for alleged embezzlement. Ibrahim Magu, a former chairman of the EFCC, shed light on the situation, disclosing that “the agency has been unable to press charges against Odili due to the court’s perpetual injunction”.
Moreover, the Port Harcourt Court of Appeal has further obstructed the EFCC’s progress by refusing to list their case since 2008. One would ask, Why will the Court of Appeal abscond from its duties by intentionally not listing an appeal as it regards the court order shielding Odili from prosecution?
These circumstances raise significant concerns regarding the rule of law and the impartiality of the judiciary. The granting of a lifelong injunction and the subsequent protection of an individual from prosecution, particularly in the face of severe corruption allegations, erodes public trust and weakens Nigeria’s fight against corruption.
Still in Rivers State, the immediate past executive governor, Nyesom Wike, has continued in this line by subtly allegedly inducing the judiciary in the state by buying cars for judges, building modern courtrooms, and providing state-of-the-art apartments to the judges in the state. Wike’s gesture may seem alright, but it’s morally wrong for a state governor to do this to the same institution whose decisions are binding on him. The judiciary must be free from any of these “situational” relationships to regain public trust.
Furthermore, recent revelations of Senator Bulkachuwa’s admission during the 9th Senate valedictory session that he influenced his wife’s decisions while she presided over the Court of Appeal have brought to light the persistence of judicial misconduct in Nigeria. In the video recording, Senator Bulkachuwa confessed to exerting significant influence over his wife’s work while she presided over the Court of Appeal. The admission highlights an alarming trend of judicial impropriety, rascality, and recklessness.
Another instance that raises concerns about the integrity of the judiciary is the case involving Justice Kekere-Ekun of the Supreme Court that returned Hope Uzodinma of the APC as governor of Imo State. Nigerians have continued to criticise this ruling, which has now added the word “Supreme Court Governor” to our nation’s political lexicon.
Interestingly, Justice Kekere-Ekun’s husband, just like Justice Zainab’s husband, Mr. Rotimi Kekere-Ekun, has been involved in politics as a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and previously served as a Special Adviser to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State on Political Matters. This has led to accusations of potential political influence on Justice Kekere-Ekun’s rulings. Justice Kekere-Ekun has also faced controversies, including a ban from entering the United States due to her anti-democratic rulings.
In the same vein, the Supreme Court in recent times has also given the senatorial ticket for Yobe North to the former President of the Senate, Senator Ahmed Lawal, who did not contest the Apc Yobe North senatorial primaries. This and many more judgements have further increased the trust deficit between the Nigerian people and the judiciary, which was meant to be their last resort.
It’s imperative to note that this judicial rascality and recklessness are never done in isolation. Senior lawyers, SANs, and other eminent law veterans are, in most cases, actively involved but never get noticed. Wole Olanipekun SAN, who is the lead counsel to Bola Tinubu at the ongoing Presidential Election Petition Court PEPC, was accused of corruption and asked to resign as the chairman of the Body of Benchers in 2022 by a group of lawyers who petitioned the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, to investigate Olanipekun for allegedly bribing judges to get favourable rulings.
The petition alleged that Olanipekun had paid millions of naira to judges in exchange for rulings in his favour. Olanipekun has denied all of the allegations against him. He has said that he is a victim of a smear campaign by his political opponents. He has also said that he is willing to cooperate with any investigation into his conduct.
Instances of judicial rascality and recklessness in Nigeria, such as the Odili case, have far-reaching consequences that undermine the rule of law and erode public trust. The granting of lifelong injunctions and the protection of individuals from prosecution, especially in the face of severe corruption allegations, further weaken Nigeria’s fight against corruption.
Moreover, recent revelations of Senator Bulkachuwa’s admission of influencing his wife’s decisions as a judge and controversies surrounding Justice Kekere-Ekun raise additional concerns about the impartiality and integrity of the judiciary.
These incidents serve as stark reminders of the urgent need for comprehensive reforms and a commitment to upholding the principles of justice, transparency, and accountability within Nigeria’s judiciary. Failure to address these issues risks further eroding public confidence and jeopardizing the foundations of democracy in the country.