Friday, August 26, 2011

Katsina Alu’s Escalation of Nigeria’s Judicial Rot as Banal Descent into a Dark Abyss

“Nigeria is chaos. But the chaos is created, organized by the government.
Chaos allows it to stay in power.” –Richard Dowden “Africa: Altered States,
Ordinary Miracles” p.6 (2008).

Nigeria defies logic. As one writer rightly pointed out, by any law of political or social science it should have collapsed or disintegrated years ago. It remains a mystery while Nigeria, which is clearly a failed state, still works. We know for a fact however that it partly works thanks to the resilience of its people. The leadership of Nigeria, political, social, religious and economic, have all being doing their level best to tip the nation over time and time again; but despite their best efforts, the country still remain standing albeit to the utter chagrin of its destructive greedy leaders.

One of such exercise in leadership betrayal of the people of Nigeria is the attempt by the outgoing Chief Justice of Nigeria to destroy Nigerian judiciary by every means possible even as he takes his exit from the judiciary. The genesis of his latest antics lies in the personal battle he is waging against his nemesis, the equally outgoing president of the Nigerian Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami. Chief Justice Katsina Alu readily receives an assist from President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, whose electoral victory is being challenged in a court presided by Justice Salami.

Nigerians are used to “kangaroo” tribunal set up by ousted military junta who used to deploy them to settle scores during their days. One of the then military tribunals convicted the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti of having foreign currency in his possession after coming back from a foreign trip. Such tribunals are usually set up hurriedly with appointees selected by military fiat from those who will readily carry out the dictates of the junta. They are usually asked to preside over incidents that were legal at the time of its occurrence but were now retroactively legalized and made punishable by term of imprisonment and even death. What Nigerians never imagined is that even though military rule is a thing of the past, their legacy lives on.

More importantly, it seems the Nigerian Judicial Council (NJC), albeit, the one presided over by Chief Justice Katsina Alu, learnt a thing or two from military rule. The NJC hurriedly meets without quorum and without giving opportunity to the accused-Justice Salami, and proceeded to sack the president of the Court of Appeal on the ground that he did not apologize to the Chief Justice over an ethical issue that was not a ground of dismissal as stipulated under the constitution of Nigeria, even whilst a case challenging the jurisdiction of NJC is pending in court. President Goodluck Jonathan gave its imprimatur to this illegality by approving the sack of Justice Salami and appointing a replacement which he believed will do its bidding at the electoral tribunal. That conjecture is rightly justified since there is no rhyme or reason to the presidency stand giving the fact that it had earlier enjoined the parties to maintain the “status quo ante”

Nigerian leaders and politicians often try to pretend that its bad image is some Western media conspiracy against Nigerian and Africa. The truth is that Nigeria’s popular image falls short of the reality. Our problems are mostly self inflicted. No thanks to the mindless and mendacious leadership abundant in the top echelons of our country. I have no doubt that Justice Salami’s problem lies solely in the current regime self interest. Nigerians home and abroad need to stand up for the integrity and independence of the judiciary by appealing to President Jonathan to reinstate Justice Salami immediately, allowing him to serve out his term as president of the court of appeal; even as we institute an enquiry into the cause of the rot in our judicial system.