By Bayo Oluwasanmi,
November 1987, Time asked in a cover story, “Who’s in Charge?” and answered its own question, saying “The nation calls for leadership and there is no one home.” There is leadership vacuum in the administration of justice in Nigeria. Who’s in charge? The judiciary and the criminal justice system in Nigeria call for leadership and there is no one home.
The progress of a nation depends on a series of resolved conflicts. Until each conflict is resolved positively, we cannot move to the next stage of development. Without resolution to these basic and vital conflicts, the government is trapped in a cloud of suspicion and confusion, isolation and exclusion, aloofness and insensitive, illusion and delusion.
Leadership without perspective and point of view isn’t leadership. We don’t know the perspective and point of view of President Muhammadu Buhari on the administration of justice in Nigeria. Perspective is how you see things, your particular frame of things. Without it, you’re flying blind. There isn’t much room for optimism among Nigerians these days at the millipede speed in which criminal cases on corruption in our courts are disposed. President Buhari’s avenues for victory on his war on corruption in his final two years are becoming narrower and narrower. In these dark days, there is, as we are already witnessing, any hope to reform our criminal justice system is as good as dead.
Delays are a persistent cause of concern in the administration of criminal justice in Nigeria more so when it involves the legislators. The timely disposition of cases is a fundamental part of justice. Conversely, unduly prolonged investigations and trials deny justice. Delays are detrimental to Nigerians seeking justice and the system of justice as a whole. Delayed justice can jeopardize the peaceful resolution of cases and can force citizens to seek justice on their own terms, which can lead to violence. Time is therefore of the essence.
September 11, 2015, the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) slammed a 13-count charge of corruption on the President of the Nigerian Senate, Bukola Abiku Mesujamba Saraki, filed before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). Mesujamba Saraki is accused of offenses ranging from anticipatory declaration of assets to making false declaration of assets in forms he filed before the CCB while he was governor of Kwara State. Mesujamba Saraki is accused of failing to declare some assets he acquired when he was a governor. Among other offenses, Mesujamba Saraki is also accused of operating foreign accounts while being a public officer as governor and senator. The offenses violated sections of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended. He’s also said to have breached Section 2 of the CCB and Tribunal Act and punishable under paragraph 9 of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution.
November 7, 2016, the CCT Chairman, Mr. Danladi Umar for the umpteenth time adjourned the trial till January 11, 2017 after sitting for barely thirty minutes. The trial, which began over a year ago, continues to enjoy special frivolous and fraudulent delays, adjournments, and postponements with the blessings of President Buhari and his Fulani siblings – the Attorney General of the federation Abubakar Malami, and the CCT Chairman Danladi Umar – all in charge of the criminal prosecution of Mesujamba Saraki a fellow Fulani.
With the prolonged adjournments and sustained delays of the trial, it is evident that reforming both the judicial and the criminal justice system are not part of the “change” Buhari promised us. It is disturbing, disappointing, and annoyingly painful that Buhari administration has no plan to reform the glacial pace at which prosecution of corrupt legislators moves. People are suffering particularly the most vulnerable, because our criminal justice system is broken and backward in substantial ways. Every Nigerian is concerned about this level of oppression. Immorality, stealing, fraud, lying, corruption, and other variegated malfeasance are common with our legislators. In a civilized democracy, the judicial system must hold the line even as the rest of the society goes over the cliff with immorality.
Everyone knows that our laws don’t work when the legislators are involved. The lawless criminal climate in Nigeria makes it difficult to prosecute and convict the reputable boss of the Saraki Family Corruption Dynasty. The Mesujamba Saraki’s trial is a textbook case how corruption undermines democratic accountability, discourages good governance, and worsens poverty. Mesujamba Saraki through corruption collapsed three or more banks, raided the Kwara State treasury as governor, the most recognized looters in the Senate, diverts public expenditure away from areas such as health, education, jobs, infrastructure, to more immediately lucrative ones as inflated contracts, and contracts that were never executed.
Majority of Nigerians want Mesujamba Saraki sent to jail. But the tacit approval of Buhari to the endless delays of the Mesujamba Saraki trial confirms our worst suspicion: the trial of a Fulani by a Fulani will end up in no conviction. Nigerians see the prosecution of Mesujamba Saraki by Buhari’s justice department as a farce and fiction. Nigerians believe the delay tactics employed by the Mesujamba Saraki defense team supported by Buhari, his Attorney General Malami, and the CCT Chairman Umar, is calculated, deliberate, and well planned to drag the case till it peters out in 2019 the presidential election year.
By turning a blind eye to the delayed prosecution of Saraki, Buhari has chosen to frustrate the urgent need to act more clearly, forcefully, and timely in his war on corruption to rein in the destroyers of our nation. The way and manner the Attorney General handles the trial has done little or nothing to restore public trust in our criminal justice system. How could the AG be so incompetent, so empty headed, and so bereft of innovative and revolutionary ideas to rebuild and reform the moribund judicial and criminal justice system?
How could the President and his AG because of Mesujamba Saraki jettison the all important enforcement of investigation and prosecution of a poster child of a ruinous generation of greed, graft, and corrupt law breakers? What in the world prevents the President and his AG to put in place reforms for effective enforcement, strong institutions that investigate and prosecute corruption expeditiously and without fear or favor? Buhari and Malami have treated Mesujamba Saraki with fear and favor. Neither Buhari nor Malami has any plan to build strong institutions. Neither has proposed any such institution. The AG has nothing to offer to revamp a decadent criminal justice.
The snail speed trial of Mesujamba Saraki exposes Buhari’s insufficient or lack of political will in the war on corruption. Buhari has failed to translate his campaign promises and rhetoric to sustainable actions. This has reflected in the messy, jumble, haphazard, uncoordinated, and directionless strategies in his war on corruption. We have little regard and little patience for and even less confidence in Buhari and Malami who are in a position to accomplish meaningful reforms in our judicial and criminal justice systems but choose to turn blind eyes to the comedy of errors that have characterized the trial of Mesujamba Saraki.
The history of the Saraki Corruption Dynasty shows Mesujamba Saraki was manufactured in a lab for franchise corruption designed to appeal to legislators and public officials and for recruitment as plunderers of our treasury. The Mesujamba Saraki epitaph will read as a top raider and recidivist of gang of thieves who served as law makers that plunge our people and nation into the abyss of poverty and penury.
You can reach Bayo at [email protected].