•Acting President recalls judicial reforms in Lagos
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday urged Nigerians to stop celebrating treasury looters.
To him, it is unfortunate that someone accused of corruption is celebrated in his hometown because people believe he has taken his share of the national cake.
“Today someone who is corrupt is celebrated. There is a problem that we must resolve, and if we don’t resolve it, it will hurt us very, very badly, just as it is hurting us already,” he said.
Osinbajo said the best way to win the war against corruption is to study the models used elsewhere and adopt them.
“We can only resist corruption when we ensure that systems put in place are working,” he said.
The Acting President spoke while opening a two-day National Dialogue on Corruption, organised by the Office of the Vice President in collaboration with the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC).
Osinbajo said corruption fighting back was not peculiar to Nigeria, adding that the country “cannot survive with the type of corruption we have”.
According to him, corruption thrives where it is allowed to thrive.
“When the very best people say that there is no consequence of bad actions, they suddenly turn bad,” he said.
The Acting President recalled that when he initiated reforms in the Lagos judiciary as Attorney-General in 1999 aimed at curbing corruption, he was accused of ethnicity and witchhunt, but was not deterred.
Among the problems he addressed, he said, was the mode of appointment of judges that was based on “man-know-man”, as well as welfare, as judges were then paid N67,000, which could not meet their basic needs.
Osinbajo said the Bola Tinubu administration gave every judge a house for life, and increased their remuneration considerably, which became a reference point for other states and the appellate courts.
He said where there were issues of corruption against judges, petitions were sent directly to the National Judicial Council (NJC) and followed up.
The reforms, he said, led to the sack of 22 corrupt magistrates and three judges within one year. A 2006 survey showed zero percent corruption in the judiciary, as against 89 per cent in 2006.
“It was because a system was in place and impunity was not allowed. It is important that we put in place models that will work.
“We must work together – the legislature, the judiciary and the executive – to put a model that must work. We must ensure that systems that are put in place are fair and comply with the rule of law,” he said.
Osinbajo added that the campaign against corruption must connect it to the problems of their times ground so that people will realise the debilitating consequences of graft.
He called for international cooperation in the fight against corruption, such as making it easier to recover stolen assets, the process of which he said had been “so difficult”.
Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Walter Onnoghen, making his first public appearance a day after his confirmation by the Senate, said the judiciary gets a lot of stick for corruption, sometimes unfairly.
“The judiciary finds itself being battered left, right and centre. So, what should the CJN say on an occasion like this, which will not appear as a defence of his institution?” he said.
The CJN admitted that “a few bad eggs exist within the judiciary”, but restated his commitment to collaborate with other arms of government to fight the scourge.
Justice Onnoghen said corruption thrived only in a culture of impunity where people believe in themselves alone.
He said the only way there can be justice is when everyone respects the constitution and the rule of law.
Justice Onnoghen appeared to be criticize the sting operation by the Department of State Services (DSS) in which the homes of judges were raided and some arrested.
He warned that such acts were capable of destroying the judiciary, adding that sanctioning judicial officers should be done through the right channels.
His words: “The judiciary holds these principles dear, because that is the only way we can ensure an orderly society, and ensure the maintenance of democracy and justice for all.
“So, if you are to fight corruption, then you should fight the culture of impunity which is attitudinal, by adhering strictly to the constitutional provisions and the rule of law.
“If we allow the rule of law to reign, then there will be a dramatic reduction in corruption and injustice. That is how I see it.
“The judiciary is painted with a brush like an institution that epitomises corruption; that is not fair; that is not correct. We have gentlemen on the bench, and by its nature, judicial officers can only be seen and not be heard.
“So, when you’re dealing with judicial corruption, you ought to do it in accordance with the rule of law and channel whatever you have through the appropriate channel so that you don’t destroy that institution, because destroying it will not do us any good. Yes, we can do more.”
On delays of cases, Justice Onnoghen said the judiciary alone was not to blame.
He said when prosecutors do not do their jobs well, a judge will not be expected to convict a suspect “willy-nilly”.
•Acting President recalls judicial reforms in Lagos