How long should Nigerian judges and magistrates hide how they spend public money?
According to a recent report by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences (ICPC), the Nigerian judiciary tops the corruption index across the public sector with a N9.4 billion bribe from lawyers. This is the same court system that hides its financial books and expenditure from the people. Incredible!
Some days ago, Prof. Sani Adam, a lawyer and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Administration, at the University of Abuja, in a media report said, "I must admit that there is so much corruption in the judiciary and all lawyers must work to revamp the judiciary because if the judiciary is doing what it is supposed to do, there will be timely dispensation of justice without delay." "All the problems we are having today are because the judiciary has failed, and it has failed woefully. It is our collective responsibility to reform our laws to ensure that cases are dispensed immediately, with all honesty and sincerity. "
Now we hear from the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, apparently overwhelmed by the dishonorable approach to public service and judicial practices, that he is publicly raising concerns about why the judiciary has not been transparent on how it is spending the funds allocated to it in its annual budgets.
Up till now, this issue has not been raised openly by any higher up in the government. As such, the AG deserves our thanks for saying an institution like the Judiciary cannot continue to operate with impunity.
The judges, magistrates, registers, and other court personnel are funded by the legislature, which appropriates funds for the judiciary to carry out its constitutional duties, execute administrative services, and engage in courthouse construction and maintenance. As such, doesn’t the public have the right to know if the judiciary is spending public funds in an impartial, responsible, and cost-efficient way?
In a democracy, it is essential that the chief justice and two or three of his deputies come physically before the legislative committee on appropriation on an annual basis to present the judiciary budget with details of their requests such as staffing, salaries, renovation, maintenance, buildings and grounds, research, education, and development, equipment, technology, accommodation, and other items. They are expected to also comment on other issues relating to law schools, prison legal services, contracting, scholarship, publications, entrainments, insurance, travel, security, and electronic documentation, as well as the budget impacts of workload and caseload.
For generations, the judiciary, meaning the chief judge or his or her deputies, has for the most part not directly appeared before the legislature to give testimony on the detailed usage of the funds they request annually. Yet, they keep requesting as if the people are stupid and therefore should not ask questions because the spenders are lords, judges, and magistrates. Well, see this link for reality education:
No matter how troubled our democracy is, the judiciary must always ensure high ethical standards and transparency when it comes to judicial budgets.
Henceforth, this present government and successive ones should, by way of executive order or law, make the judiciary account for all the money appropriated to them and various fees paid to the courts.
The Nigerian judiciary must begin to move away from pre-historic times by taking advantage of new technologies. It must take a futurist view, which includes maintaining court records electronically, enabling electronic filing of pleadings and orders, and constructing high-tech courtrooms for evidence presentation. To save time and money, the courts should learn to electronically zoom in and out. Court lawyers should learn to use tablets to present evidence in the courtroom, so the judges can see an exhibit on a TV monitor.
We cannot continue with the old way of doing business because of personal convenience and a refusal to engage in new learning. To maintain the public’s trust in the judiciary, and as part of updated judicial practices and mechanisms, there is a need for strong counsel to the laissez-faire attitude of the National Judicial Council (NJC). Yes, we need to spend money on the judiciary, but it must commit to spending public funds in a responsible and cost-efficient way. Court audits by the office of Auditor-General and legislative oversight mechanisms always work together to hold judges and judicial staff responsible for their financial conduct as government officials and for efficient management of public funds. These notations should equally apply to others like the military, customs service, immigration service, the Nigerian Police Force, DSS, prisons, the National Intelligence Agency, and others. Institutional accountability and integrity are crucial if the place called Nigeria is to grow into a democracy.
John Egbeazien Oshodi who was born in Uromi, Edo State in Nigeria, is an American based Police/Prison Scientist and Forensic/Clinical/Legal Psychologist. A government Consultant on matters of forensic-clinical adult/child psychological services in the USA; Chief Educator and Clinician at the Transatlantic Enrichment and Refresher Institute, an Online Lifelong Center for Personal, Professional and Career Development. A former Interim Associate Dean/Assistant Professor at the Broward College, Florida. The Founder of the Dr. John Egbeazien Oshodi Foundation, Center for Psychological Health and Behavioral Change in African settings. In 2011, he introduced the State-of-the-Art Forensic Psychology into Nigeria through N.U.C and the Nasarawa State University where he served in the Department of Psychology as an Associate Professor. A Virtual behavioral Leadership Professor at the ISCOM University, Republic of Benin. Founder of the Proposed Transatlantic Egbeazien Open University (TEU) of Values and Ethics, a digital project of Truth, Ethics, Openness. Author of over forty academic publications/creations, at least 200 public opinion writeups on African issues, and various books. He specializes in psycho-prescriptive writings regarding African institutional and governance issues.
Prof Oshodi wrote in via [email protected]