Asiwjau Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, Life Bencher, FCIArb, ,FNIALS
The trial of the Honourable, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, which opened at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, today, comes to a close.
Whatever may be the judgment of the Tribunal shall soon pass and become part of our history. So much lessons have been learnt in the nine appearances I had at the Tribunal.
Firstly, this case, in my view is one of a landmark and one that defines our moment as a country in our forward match in a constitutional democracy.
I see Hon. Justice Onnoghen as the hero of the whole episode. From the moment the case was filed on 11th January, 2919 to the 14th day of January when he was formerly arraigned and as strange events happened at the Tribunal.
He remained composed notwithstanding the lies, propaganda and social media conviction that attracted so much scandal,threat,serious health afflictions,humiliation and unthinkable events of our time.
He maintained his judicial comportment ,.showing himself as a man of truth with a strong faith in due process and rule of law and the ultimate justice . He displayed exemplary Christ like character
The word of God to him is contained in the Book of Isaiah chapter 30 : 18-22,. So it shall be in the name of justice.
The second lesson is that the framers of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) omitted to give sufficient attention to the need for the Code of Conduct Tribunal, to secure its independence, impartiality and non interference from outside the Court.
A situation where the Executive arm of the Federal Government is the custodian of the Code of the Code of Conduct for public officers, the enforcer of the Code of Conduct through the Tribunal.
It is the appointing authority of the members of the tribunal. In the proceedings in the Tribunal, the Executive is the accuser ,the investigator, prosecutor, the witness and the judge, all roll together into one.
This is unacceptable under the Constitution that guarantees independence of the 3 arms of Government.
There is urgent need for Constitution reform. The Code of Conduct Tribunal must have Courts established in each of the six geopolitical zones of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Monopoly has the ability to breed corruption, arrogance, disregard for due process and partiality.
The Code of Conduct Tribunal should be a full member or part of the Judiciary under section 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
The third lesson is that the case has clearly shown that Nigerian Judiciary is very weak, vulnerable and not independent. The security of tenure of a judicial officers is a mere wishful thinking.
It is unthinkable that the head of the Judiciary will be treated the way Onnoghen was treated not a whimper came from the body of men and women of highest distinction in the legal profession.
Is it not dangerous that the President can appoint a Chief Justice of Nigeria without the recommendation of the National Judicial Council NJC ?
Whereas political matters and election matters were treated with dispatch, and judgment delivered within hours, the appeal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria , six weeks after argument was ordered to be kept away in the file.
There is no association of Nigerian judges ,to speak a word. Let no public officers or judicial officer at any level throw stones because if not all, most are guilty as Onnoghen.
Nobody knows who is next, a precedent has been laid. The honourable Attorney General of the Federation seems pleased.
Men who sit in judgment over fellow human beings are representative of God on the earth and every one shall face the almighty God, on the last day, to give account of his stewardship. On that day all secrets shall be laid bare.
The Bar Association has by reason of personal leadership ambition rendered ineffective, divided and weak.
It is unable to speak boldly to secure the independence of the Judiciary. Elders of the Bar and men of good will should rise from their deep sleep.
People,who must sit in judgment over others, must be men and women of character, learning and maturity. The mental status and background of such judges must be certified approved.
The zeal and strong determination of our leaders to fight endemic corruption in our country must be commended and supported.
I share the view that corruption is evil,destructive ,stunt societal and human growth and diminish the core value of the people.
The Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal is one of the most effective and strategic institutions capable of reducing corruption and abuse of office, in the rank and file of public service. There is urgent need for reform of the institutions.
Corruption cannot be fought successful with corrupt institutions and corrupt procedure. It is injustice to inflict corruption procedure on innocent public officers.
God will not allow corruption to consume our nation. The end should not justify the means, but the means should justify the end. The practice of propaganda lies and media trial will encourage injustice.
Truth will exalt our nation , but propaganda and lies will enthrone injustice.
Lies and injustice is a reproach .Let justice be done even if heaven will fall and let the rule of law be the only means to justify the end.