Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Itse Sagay on Wednesday said the judiciary was undermining the war against corruption.
Sagay said the judiciary was hostile towards anti-graft efforts.
He spoke at a conference on “Promoting International Cooperation in Combating Illicit Financial Flows and Enhancing Asset Recovery to Foster Sustainable Development” organised by PACAC in Abuja.
“The judiciary is not on board in the anti-corruption fight,” Sagay said.
He faulted the National Judicial Council (NJC) for recalling judges who were suspended for alleged corruption.
Sagay said, “NJC’s decision to recall them, especially Ademola, whose case is a life case, and others who have not been charged but are going to be charged, for me, is a sign of hostility to the fight against corruption.
“We cannot afford the judicial hierarchy to engage in espirit de corps (a shared feeling of loyalty) with members of their group that have fallen in the corruption struggle.
“They must join the executive whose mantra is total or near elimination of corruption for the sake of the survival of this country. Judges have a duty to join in this determination.
“So, that sort of decision that was taken gives the impression that they are hostile to the struggle. That’s one reason I said they’re not on board,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the conference.
He said some judges demand money from lawyers, which he claimed the NJC was aware of.
“There are so many judges now who demand money from lawyers or accept money from them. I know a judge who will come to you today and say: ‘My mother died, please send money to me’. Lawyers will send N200,000 to him. The next day, he’d say: ‘My daughter is getting married’. Another day: ‘My uncle has been made a chief; we’re contributing.’
“Nobody in the judicial hierarchy will deny that these judges exist. And one of them is among those going back now. He has collected money from hundreds of lawyers. And everybody knows this.
“Should that person be on the Bench? He has desecrated the Bench; he has brought it down; he’s a common beggar, who is ready to compromise his position if you give him money on the excuse of burying his father.
“That man has millions of naira and dollars in his account already accumulated through this means. People like that are being asked to go back. That’s why I said the judiciary, for now, is not with us in the struggle against corruption, and they need to be with us if that struggle is not to crash and if this country is not to crash with it,” Sagay said.
He said PACAC would continue to engage with the judiciary to make judges realise that the country’s future is bleak if they do not join the battle.
“We interact with judges a lot, from the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) to the magistrates. We’ve visited most of them, and we’ll keep on visiting and talking and persuading them to realise that it is in their own interest to be as fervent and determined and passionate about elimiminating the sourge of corruption, and that any of their brethren who is suspected to be guilty of corruption is a destroyer of all that the judiciary stands for. He’s an enemy of the judiciary.
“The judiciary, in my view, is the highest of the three arms of government. When a judge descends from that level and comes into the mud to join in looting and accepting money from lawyers who have no name to protect, the judicial hierarchy, the clean ones should come down hard on such judges, harder than the poor man who is sentenced everyday for stealing a goat.
“The judge who is guilty of corruption is almost guilty of a crime against humanity, because what he is doing is to undermine the whole integrity of the state.
“It means that when we have a major issue that can affect the future of the country, we can’t go to him, because he’s dishonest, he lacks integrity and is fraudulent and will not decide the case according to the justice of it.
“So it’s a very dangerous thing that is happening now and the judges must embrace the fight against corruption, otherwise this country has no future,” Sagay said.