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todayAugust 2, 2022

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The clean hands doctrine is a simple one that says “who comes to equity must come with clean hands”.

 The Judiciary is the third arm of government whose primary role is to interpret laws enacted by the legislature for the good of the society. It has become obvious to the watchers of the third arm of government that all is not well with the institution. It is on the verge of being destroyed, but some components may still be redeemable if the right steps are taken.

 But who will clean the Augean stable? Who will dispense justice in the house of justice?

 What is happening in the judiciary had long been foretold. It will be recalled that a few decades ago a panel was set up to look into the problems and proffer solutions to the problems besetting the judiciary in Nigeria. The Justice Kayode ESO Panel which had many notable legal minds, indicted many judges, including those who had passed away; the report recommended dismissals, or outright retirement from the service for those who were found wanting. But like many such reports in Nigeria, nothing was done about it.

In recent history we had the case of Justice Walter Onnoghen, former Chief Justice of Nigeria. Most recently the resignation of Justice Tanko Muhammad, was tainted with alleged corruption. Indeed, retired Hon. Justice Ejemba Eko of the Apex court during his valedictory address was bold enough to specifically point out that the ICPC and EFCC should investigate the Heads of Courts in Nigeria: that is to say the Chief Judge of States, High Courts, Chief Justices of Federal High Courts, Customary Courts, Grand Khadis of SCA, Presidents of Court of Appeal, and Chief Justice of Nigeria due to their reckless financial mismanagement.

In all of this, there’s nowhere it has become so glaring the malfeasance in this arm of government like the Court of Appeal where a justice recently procured two expensive cars worth over N600m as official cars. The most unfortunate aspect of what is going on is that in last two years there had been no payment whatsoever of roving allowances to lawyers, unlike in other ministries and parastatals. These were benefits that lawyers used to enjoy in the past like their other counterparts in other MDAs.

In addition to all this, the court is owing contractors huge sums of money. Contractors that have executed jobs with the court running into hundreds of millions of Naira have still not been paid, including even monies appropriated for the payments of such contracts. This means the court has expended the sums without the necessary virement, which is indeed a financial crime as far as the financial laws in Nigeria are concerned. Even members of staff in accounts department have been given leave to rest so that management will not be bothered by the demands of contractors and important staff claims. The court warehouse/stores department have become a ghost of its former self with no stationery to work with.

Another worrisome issue in terms of welfare is that there has been no international training for Justices of the court for several years now. Yet some top men enjoy medical tourism abroad.  Staffers cannot access NHIS since 2019. The HMO had to write all hospitals in the country not to attend to any staff from that court, due to the non-servicing of liabilities. The absence of this health safety net has brought about embarrassment, untold hardship and it has endangered staff and their families.

 We must collectively come together to salvage what is left of the judiciary or else the refuge of the common man will be in permanent ruins.

      Badmus Adejoh, Department of Computer Science School of Postgraduate Studies, Federal University Lokoja, Kogi State

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todayAugust 2, 2022

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