Acting President Yemi Osinbajo and the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen yesterday articulated different opinions on corruption in the judiciary.
They spoke at the ‘National Dialogue on Corruption’ organised by the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), which held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Osinbajo blamed corruption on the way judges are appointed, arguing that there has been no well-structured system. He said the system must ensure that the recruitment process for judges, lawyers, clerks and other judicial workers is transparent and not on a man-knows-man basis.
“Aside from the Department of State Services (DSS) investigation, there should be particular test and proper investigation of candidates to be appointed as judges. In some of the systems that we inherited, the United Kingdom, for instance, there is a process of almost 17 different tests before you can become a judge of the high court.
According to the acting president, “we can tackle corruption if we adopt some of those best practices, including the general welfare and remuneration of judicial officers. Any judge accused of any infraction must be investigated and prosecuted through the National Judicial Council (NJC) to avoid political influence.”
Onnoghen said: “The judiciary is battered left, right and centre. I will like us to realize that corruption thrives (or any other form of injustice) in a culture of impunity. Wherever you have a culture of impunity, you will have corruption. Because people believe I must have this. It must be this or nothing. It must be me and me alone.
“So, they throw away the constitutional provisions that have been drafted to guide our daily activities, inter-governmental, inter-personal; they throw away the principles of rule of law. But the judiciary holds these principles in care because that is the only way by which you can ensure an orderly society and ensure the good and maintenance of democracy and justice for us.
According to Onnoghen, “if we are to fight corruption then you fight the culture of impunity which is an attitudinal phenomenon, adhering strictly to the constitutional provision of the rule of law.”
Chairman of the PACAC, Professor Itse Sagay said the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) are two agencies that seem not to be aware of the anti-corruption drive of the present administration.
Sagay said in these agencies, the menace has become so deeply engrained in the system, that the people are not longer afraid of the consequences.