FORMER Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Chidi Odinkalu, has accused politicians of capturing, weaponising, and corrupting the Nigerian judiciary.
He said the politicisation of judicial appointments and lack of independence, among other challenges facing the judiciary, were the primary causes of its declining integrity.
Odinkalu stated this while speaking on a radio town hall meeting titled Public Sector Integrity in Nigeria, organised by the Progressive Impact Organisation for Community Development, PRIMORG, at the weekend in Abuja.
He claimed that politicians had taken over the judiciary. He also said Nigerians needed to know that elites had corrupted and politically weaponised the court.
Odinkalu maintained that politicians and their allies, whose children, friends, and mistresses were receiving appointments to the bench, used the court to advance their interests rather than the general public’s interests.
” It is not suitable for the Chief Justice of Nigeria to appoint his nephew to the Court of Appeal and his son to the Federal High Court or for the President of the Court of Appeal to appoint her son-in-law to the bench and her daughter appointed to Plateau State High Court where she comes from.
“We are looking for the same people to protect us, and something is fundamentally wrong with them and the masses.
“Everyone should understand that the judiciary has been captured, politically weaponised and corrupted,” he said.
When asked if reforms could save the declining credibility of Nigeria’s legal system, Odinkalu said:” There are no reforms that will work unless we (Nigerians) deepen the de-politicisation of the judiciary. This is because they (politicians) have captured the administrative processes that should have been performed to discipline the judiciary.”
According to him, judges and politicians use the executive arm of the government to unseat people they don’t like, putting the ones they want in power.
He stressed that politicians had also captured the legislative process, and (legislators) were afraid of the judges.
Odinkalu called on Nigerians to understand the issues and realise their responsibilities, adding that citizens were more disempowered than they thought. “Hence, the onus is now on the people to go and get back the institution of justice that politicians and elites have captured,” he stated.
Civil Society organisations and other participants during the town hall meeting also spoke extensively on the administration of justice in Nigeria amidst a growing trust deficit.
Programme Manager at Integrity Organisation, Emmanuel Bosah, spoke extensively on the administration of justice in Nigeria amidst a declining confidence in the judiciary.
He noted that a lot of political will was needed to clean the rot in the judiciary while calling for judicial reforms and citizens to be empowered with the knowledge to follow up and hold the system to account.
A public good advocate and security and energy consultant, Kevin Fyneface, called on the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Olukayode Ariwoola, to come clean with appointments in the judiciary and work towards rebuilding the trust of the third arm of government.
Fyneface lamented that Nigeria was deeply rooted in nepotism and cronyism, noting that “where cronyism thrives, you will find corruption as the order of the day.”
On his part, a public servant, Philip Ezegbulam, advised his colleagues both at the federal and state levels to resist the temptation of corruption, while the programme manager of Accountability Lab Nigeria, Ehi Idakwo, urged Nigerians not to be docile but proactive to corruption issues in the nation.
The PRIMORG’s Town Hall Meeting Against Corruption series is intended to draw the government’s and the public’s attention to instances of corruption in Nigeria.
MacArthur Foundation provides funding for the radio show.