By Jibrin Ibrahim
In his valedictory address to the Senate, “distinguished” former member, Adamu Bulkachuwa, has confessed to influencing the decisions of his wife, Zainab Bulkachuwa, while she was serving as a judge and President of the Court of Appeal.
Mr. Bulkachuwa, an 83-year old chieftain of the ruling APC, who represented Bauchi North senatorial district in the 9th Senate, confirmed infringing on: “My wife, whose freedom and independence I encroached upon while (she) was in office, and she has been very tolerant and accepted my encroachment and extended her help to my colleagues,” he said. The former Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, realised the old man was making dangerous revelations of their secret practices in public and stopped him saying: “Distinguished, I don’t think this is a good idea going this direction. It is not a good idea, please.” It would have been great to hear examples he might have given on how they perverted the course of justice.
Very few Nigerians would have been surprised to learn that such behaviour happens. What the episode does is to confirm what we know. It is not for nothing that the joke during this election season is that after you have been rigged out, you would be told go to court and get justice. It is not a joke but one of the deepest concerns of Nigerian citizens about the sharp decline in the delivery of justice in the Nation’s judicial system. The President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Yakubu Maikyau, in his comments on the matter correctly asserted that the statements were clearly admissions by the Senator, that he did attempt to, and/or actually perverted the course of justice, which makes him liable to be investigated and prosecuted even on his admission. That this came with a huge negative impact on the integrity and the independence of the Judiciary can only be an understatement.
Unfortunately, the National Judicial Council (NJC) which met on 14 June 2023, did not take a stand on the matter, arguing through an official that the judge in question has already retired so no disciplinary measures can be taken against her. They are yet to understand the basic issue that the integrity and independence of the Judiciary is in question due to widespread belief, based on credible allegations, that very many judicial officers soil the reputation of the judiciary through decisions based on pecuniary rewards, political, ethnic and religious influences making nonsense of the entire judiciary. In such a context, lame excuses to justify inaction is not the way to go.
A senior lawyer and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olisa Agbakoba, has called on the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), to immediately invite Senator Bulkachuwa for interrogation and proceed to prosecute him accordingly. It is indeed important that strong action should be taken on the basis of this confession.
Premium Times reports that in the waning days of her headship of the appellate court in February 2020, Justice Bulkachuwa shared her four-decade experience with journalists in Lagos. Specifically, she denied an allegation that she took a 6 billion Naira bribe: “There was a time when allegations were flying around that I was given N6 billion, and I laughed. So, if I was given N6 billion, do you think I would still be here?” she wondered. The jurist went on to distance her judicial duties from her husband’s political life. After her husband’s comments, it is now difficult to believe her because if she indeed betrays the ethics of her profession based on spousal influence, why not for financial reasons.
The 2023 elections were contentious and acrimonious. Many citizens believe for whatever reasons that the elections were not free and fair. A lot of Nigerians are therefore looking up to the judiciary to deliver justice in the election tribunals currently sitting. The Bulkachuwa confession would shake their belief. It is for this reason that it would be unwise for the National Judicial Council to remain aloof on the matter.
On Wednesday, President Bola Tinubu suspended the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, from office for “weighty allegations of abuse of office levelled against him.” It would be recalled that last month, the immediate-past governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle, accused Mr Bawa of demanding $2 million as a bribe from him, an allegation he denied. He was in turn accusing Mr. Matawalle of organizing a N70 billion fraud as governor. In 2021, Mr Bawa took over the helms of affairs at the commission under similar circumstances when his predecessor, Ibrahim Magu, was suspended from office by then-President Muhammadu Buhari, over allegations of corruption. This is the predicament of Nigerians – are there public officials who are not corrupt? Indeed, some commentators attribute Mr. Bawa’s suspension to his previous efforts to investigate the current President for corruption three years ago.
In Nigerian parlance, jankara judgement refers to a judicial outcome that has been procured illegally. It draws its meaning from a Lagos market that was notorious at one time for selling fake products. Sad is the country where law enforcement and judicial decisions are assumed to be for the most part based on injustice – bribes, corruption, peddling influence and/or blackmail. Perverting the course of justice cannot remain our sociological reality. There are still judicial officers with integrity in the system. They must become more active and denounce and expose the corrupt ones amongst them. The National Judicial Council itself must become more proactive in seeking out and expelling the bad eggs within the system. That would be a big step in re-establishing confidence in the system.