SANs caution FG on judges’ prosecution


Some Senior Advocates of Nigeria have urged the Federal Government to thread with caution on its plan to prosecute the seven judges suspected of corrupt practices.
The SANs warned that such a move, if not carefully handled, may adversely affect the nation’s judiciary. Against the advice of the National Judicial Council, the Federal Government has disclosed plans to prosecute seven of the 15 judges suspected of corruption.
The senior lawyers argued that though the law in Nigeria did not confer immunity on judges, utmost care must be taken by the FG in prosecuting the suspected judges in order not to trample upon the independence of the third arm of government.
According to a senior advocate, Tayo Oyetibo, “The appropriate procedure should be followed on this matter because it involves judges of this country. But be that as it may, the evidence that the government has against the alleged judges will also determine the case.I don’t know what evidence they have but obviously, before you can arraign a judge on a criminal charge, there ought to be a concrete evidence of culpability in order not to ridicule them.
On the effect of the development on the nation’s judicial system, Oyetibo noted, “The government must be extremely careful, if it doesn’t want things to backfire”.
Another senior advocate, Chief Mike Ozekhome, noted that no matter how careful the Federal Government might be in handling the prosecution of the judges, the matter would still have some effect on the judiciary.
Ozekhome said that the prosecution of the suspected judges could later affect decisions by their colleagues in performing their constitutional duties.
He said, “Well, let me make it clear that nobody that is above the law. It is only the President, vice president, governors and deputy governors that have immunity under section 309 of the 1999 constitution.
“Even then the president and others can be prosecuted after they leave office and that is to tell you that they have to be mindful of their conduct.
“However, while it is legally inevitable to prosecute the judges, the government has to be very mindful that what they have done will with no doubt have effect on the arm of government, which is the judiciary.
“Looking at the intimidation, harassment of the judges, it will demoralize things. The Federal Government is free to go ahead, but they must realize that it will definitely have effect on the system because the judges will now be unnecessarily mindful of their decisions in court, thinking that government may be upset with it. And that will be an adverse effect on the entire independence of the judiciary against the constitution, which doesn’t speak for good democracy”.
However, the leader of a Non-Governmental Organisation, “Enough is enough”, Yemi Adamolekun, has urged the Federal Government not to waver in its plan to prosecute the suspected judges.
Adamolekun maintained that such an action would help to restore dignity to the Nigerian judiciary.
“I don’t see reason why a reasonable Nigerian will be against the prosecution of the judges. We all saw what the country has been turned to with malpractices of the judges. We need to start setting things right in this country, if we care about the future of the younger generations.