By Opeyemi Oguntoye
The judge that sentenced James Ibori, very surprised, said “It was one of the biggest money laundering cases he has ever seen and the £50 million the former governor had admitted to stealing was probably a “ludicrously low “fraction of the total amount “.
The figure, the judge said, could be in excess of £200 million; it’s difficult to tell” after he was sent to jail for 13 years for money laundering and embezzlement. The question then arises: Why United Kingdom? Because we had him here for 8 years as governor and during those times, he was pilfering Delta people money. After the conclusion of his tenure, he was charged to court in Asaba, Delta State with various allegations and evidences, but Justice Awokulehin discharged him from all the 170 count charges brought against him.
That was how Ibori was made clean and baptised with salvation water because of judiciary we have which allows the rich to buy justice at the expense of the poor. But the good Lord that does not sleep. He made sure nemesis caught up with James Ibori in The UK when he was trying to use the same money dubiously acquired from the poor people of his state to buy a bombardier challenger jet, costing over $20 million and several vehicles when the effective law in United Kingdom caught up with him. The rest is history.
Though the sentence brought shame to the same judicial system but didn’t see it on time because some of them were clouded with heavy currencies which most of those politicians were using to induce them into passing favourable judgement for them.
Precisely in July 1991, the then President W.H George Bush nominated Clearance Thomas for the slot of the Supreme Court judge after receiving the letter of retirement of Thurgood Marshall. A few months before his confirmation by the Senate, Professor Anita Faye Hill who is a black woman and former employee of Judge Clearance Thomas came out to testify against Judge Thomas, alleging that she sexually harassed her when she was working for him at the then (EEOC), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. What got me was the attention, transparency and open hearing done by the Senate Judiciary Committee and Anita Hill’s reasons for challenging the confirmation of Judge Thomas.
She said: “I’m testifying as to the character and fitness of Thomas to serve on the high court”. Throughout the confirmation process and open hearing on the feud between the two, one thing was the basis for allowing the hearing to take place: integrity of the judge. The then Chairman of the committee, Senator Joe Biden, made sure public opinion counted, with fairness and preserving the dignity of the nation.
But it’s a pity that those words are lost in our judicial system today and it goes from the top to the bottom. Almost all Nigerians find it hard to do the right thing because they have seen the effect and result of doing things right in Nigeria. Professor Anita Hill’s testimony didn’t only reveal some hidden truths but also set a record in the history of America as it contributed to the highest number of women elected to the country’s congress in 1992.
But the case is different in my land, doing things right is a crime and if you try to blow a wrong whistle, you will be lynched. The case of Speaker Yakubu Dogara and Abdulmumin Jibrin is still in the air today, while the man that has the intention to clean the system suffers, the Senate and House committee look on as the accuser groan for investigation and justice.
A renowned Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Niyi Akintola said: “Some Nigerians will support President Buhari if he uses any tough tactic that works to fight corruption”. He echoed what we’ve all agreed on that corruption has eaten deep into the fabric of the country. It was as if Akintola read my mind when he said that to the president but he didn’t add now to it. Whatever needs to be done on the judiciary, if he is not conscious of the time now, he may not be able to deal with the cankerworm of corruption in our bone marrow.
Steve Murphy and Javier Pena, the two Drug Enforcement Association (DEA) agents went far to fight dirty with Pablo Escobar, the then drug lord of Colombia and the Head of NRACOS. Initially, they thought it was a small catch but when they saw the extent at which Pablo was fighting the battle, they didn’t hesitate to fight back and won the war against the most dreadful bandit in Colombia. The President of Colombia back then, Don Cesar Gaviaria Augustus Trujillo, didn’t only support the DEA but also looked on when the two powerful drug lord was fighting each other as it made it set a channel for them to nail Pablo. In the end, December 2, 1993 precisely, they killed Pablo; they didn’t kill him because they fought neither like a military nor like a police but won the battle because they employed politics.
If Buhari really want to win most of the battle in the country, most especially the one in our judiciary, politics is needed. One of my lecturers once said, ‘if you want to win the battle of this world, play politics, in fact not only at work but within your family, church, mosque, government.’’
How then can our president fix the messy judiciary without fixing the Nigeria police, the corrupt paramilitary systems, and those ones that announced on national television that the driver licence is N6, 500 and yet, people get it above N10, 000? How do you fix the judiciary when the prison officers who are meant to bring the accused to the court are very corrupt? When policemen are still slaves to most of the politicians, cleaning shoes and carrying bags for wives and girlfriends?
Mr. President, don’t let the system collapse totally, save us from the public shame that the judiciary has brought on us. Nowadays, it is hard to find justice and truth because it has been long sent to the dungeons.
In January 2006, the then governor of Oyo State, Rasheed Ladoja, was fraudulently impeached through the most crooked ways of politicking I’ve ever seen in life. A situation where the then state Chairman of the National Road Transport Workers (NURTW) chased out lawmakers in the House of Assembly and supervised the impeachment process of Ladoja. It took ten months before he could get justice. How messier, dirty and bad can it be with our judiciary that had enough on their hands? The High, Appeal and even Supreme Court judges are been accused of corruption daily in this country and we don’t even see it as shameful. Again, because it has become normal that corruption has been accepted in the society.
We have heard of lawyers, senior advocates who are good at bribing those judges and we see them walking free, we have seen the trial of an accused SAN that went to court with numerous SANs to showcase class in court. We have seen the clampdown on some judge’s and millions found in their possessions. Where is our culture of decency? It wasn’t bad like this when we were still using all forms of gods to bring down evil people. If truly we want to have a society tomorrow, let us fix our judiciary.