"The moment we [Africans] lost our languages was also the moment we lost our bodies, our gold, diamonds, copper, coffee, tea." - Ngugi wa Thiong'o

Who should be fighting corruption in Nigeria

The world considers Nigeria as a country that is synonymous with corruption. A US journalist once said; Nigeria is riddled with dishonesty to the extent that it will be easier to find a needle in a hay stack than find an incorruptible man in the country.

That was a very harsh assessment of a people, but why would anyone complain when those who are supposed to fight the menace are in fact romancing it.

And that leads to the question: who should be fighting corruption in Nigeria?

Nigeria practices a presidential system of government, which has checks and balances built into it. Checks and balances is a system that allows the 3 branches of government (Executive, Legislature and Judiciary) to limit the powers of each other.

For instance, the Executive presents the country’s budget to the legislators who’ll approve and monitor its implementation. And when a question of Law arises, it will be the duty of the Judiciary to interpret and enforce the letters of the budget.

Thus, going by the above example, it will be absolute to believe that it is the duty of the Judiciary to fight corruption in Nigeria. And so, the blame of all the insults that is heaped on Nigeria, concerning corruption, should be laid on the Judiciary for abdicating their duties.

Since 1999, the Executive and Legislature have created and approved several anti-corruption agencies, such as EFCC and Code of Conduct Bureau etc. that are saddled with the task of prosecuting corrupt officials. 

But unfortunately, the efforts of these agencies are frustrated once they take the offenders to the Courts. EFCC, for instance, has several pending cases against former State Governors ever since 2007.

However, the former Governors have hired SANs (Senior Advocate of Nigeria) whose sole role is to ensure that their clients will not go on trial. They do this by raising motions here and there and constantly appealing objections through to the Supreme Court.

All these shenanigans are done in the bid to waste time and frustrate the cases and they thereby, end up ridiculing the Judiciary.

In Europe and America notwithstanding, Lawyers are officers of the Court; I believe it’s the same with Nigeria since its laws are based on the English legal system. As Officers of the Court, Lawyers are under the obligation to protect the integrity of the Court and by extension, the Judiciary.

Hence, a Lawyer’s allegiance is first to the Courts before his clients. This position was unanimously upheld by the US Supreme Court in Nix v. Whiteside (1985).

Facts of the Case:
Mr Whiteside went to Mr Calvin’s apartment to buy some dope. Argument followed and Whiteside stabbed Calvin to death. Although Whiteside claimed self-defence, he was however convicted of murder and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

He later appealed his sentence on the grounds that his Lawyer, Robinson didn’t allow him to lie. But Robinson testified that Whiteside has previously told him that he believed that Calvin had a gun but didn’t see it.

Later, Whiteside wanted to change his statement that he saw a shining metal with Calvin. But Robinson told him that he cannot change his statement as that will amount to perjury and as an officer of the Court he is obliged to inform the court.

In their unanimous judgement, the Supreme Court noted that the code of conduct of American Bar Association demands that a Lawyer “must… observe and advise his client to observe the statute law.”

And that even though Lawyers observe a policy of confidentiality with their clients, it doesn’t extend to when their clients inform them that they want to mislead the court.

Thus, Robinson did the right thing otherwise he could have been charged with accessory to perjury and face disbarment.

Well, I doubt if this kind of situation can ever happen in Nigeria. In fact, the lawyers will polish their clients’ lies to appear more believable before the Courts. When that’s not possible, they will bribe the Judges to get favourable judgement or sentence for their clients.

Instead of fighting corruption in Nigeria, the Judiciary/Lawyers encourage it. A good example of aiding corruption occurred when a Judge in Asaba, Delta State absolved James Ibori of all charges preferred against him.

Besides, Ibori pleaded guilty in London for the same charges that he was discharged and acquitted in Asaba. To make matters worse, it was the Attorney General of Nigeria that aided that fraud.

But, why did Ibori plead guilty in London and didn’t take a chance with a trial? His Lawyers in London knew he had a bad case. And as officers of the Court, they are obliged to advise their client accordingly and thus, avoid wasting the Court’s time, which would have incurred more years in prison if he'd gone on trial and was found guilty.

Really, the major issue in the forthcoming Nigerian presidential election is corruption. Most people accuse Jonathan of not having the will to fight corruption and that Buhari will crush corruption if elected.

Although Buhari may be an honest man, but a tree can never make a forest. I don’t know who amongst his Party men that will assist him in the huge task of busting corruption in Nigeria. 

El-Rufai and Sylva (former Gov. of Bayelsa) etc. have pending cases with EFCC, which their Lawyers have been frustrating.

Or is it the APC national leader, Bola Tinubu who has no regards for the Courts. Look at him sitting nonchalantly in a duck during one of his Court’s arraignments. 

Moreover, the SANs are still there to frustrate corruption cases.

While former Pres. Obasanjo used crude means including intimidation and impeachment to achieve the little he did; it will be a near impossible today to do the same. So Buhari think twice.

In conclusion, fighting corruption in Nigeria without the Lawyers acting as the Officers of the Courts will be futile.