The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), has warned that judges found to have been tainted by corruption under the present administration will be jailed and the proceeds of their ill-gotten wealth confiscated.
“Corrupt judges will go to jail as the government of President Muhammadu Buhari will actively promote and ensure that corrupt judges are prosecuted and their illegally acquired assets are returned to the state”, he said.
The Minister said this in Lagos on Tuesday, as a guest at the formal presentation of the report published by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, titled “Go home and sin no more: Corrupt judges escaping justice in Nigeria”.
Malami, who was represented on the occasion by his Senior Special Assistant on White Collar Crimes, Abiodun Aikomo, was quoted to have vowed that acts of judicial impunity on the part of judges would not be tolerated by the Buhari-led administration.
“Considering the pivotal role that they play in the administration of justice, it is important to ensure that Nigerian judges, like the proverbial Caesar’s wife, are beyond reproach or even suspicion. Gone are the days when corrupt judges escaped from justice in Nigeria!”
“I can assure you today that in line with the cardinal agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, the office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation shall ensure that every appearance of corruption in the judiciary is dealt among other measures through criminal prosecution and forfeiture to the State of illegally acquired assets”, he said.
The Justice Minister lamented that the Nigerian judiciary had been losing public trust and confidence as it appeared as judges enjoyed total immunity from prosecution for alleged corrupt practices.
He added, “As we may be aware, this administration promised Nigerians that it will promptly address the challenges facing our nation in the three areas of corruption, economy and security. Let no one be in doubt, the legitimate expectation of Nigerians in this regard shall be met.
“In this regard therefore, I am reiterating that the fight against corruption shall be total and will not exclude judicial officers, who are found wanting. After all, it is beyond doubt that a corrupt judge cannot meaningfully contribute to the fight against corruption”.
Malami said judges would be continually reminded of the judicial oath that they took, which mandated them to deliver justice without fear or favour, affection or ill-will, independently and impartially.
“In reality, it cannot be over-emphasised that systemic corruption and impunity are prevalent in Nigeria, and that they cut across all sectors of the society, unfortunately, including the judiciary – an institution that is universally believed to be the hope of the common man.
“Ideally, the judiciary in a democratic state ought to be accountable less to public opinion and more to public interest. It should discharge its constitutional roles by being principled, independent and impartial”, he stated.
On his part, SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni said: “Corrupt judges are more dangerous to the society than corrupt politicians because a corrupt judiciary denies both victims of corruption and those accused of corruption access to an independent, impartial and fair adjudication process”.
Mumuni disclosed that SERAP looks forward to working with the Office of the AGF to ensure the full implementation of the recommendations contained in their report.
The report, among other things, is calling for the prosecution of corrupt judges; referral by the Chief Justice of the Federation and the National Judicial Council of all cases of judicial corruption to appropriate anti-corruption agencies; publication and auditing of spending by the judiciary; public and periodic disclosure of assets by the Chief Justice of Nigeria and all other judges; retired judges should be allowed to lead the National Judicial Council to improve its independence; and urgent investigation of allegations of age falsification among judges by the National Judicial Council.