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A Call For Judicial Therapy In The Troubled Ariwoola Judiciary

Feature Article Psychologist John Egbeazien Oshodi
NOV 29, 2023 LISTEN
Psychologist John Egbeazien Oshodi

Nigerians Remain Panicky Under the Current Judicial Atmosphere: A Call for Judicial Therapy And Helpful Directions that Current and Aspiring lawyers should Draw from These Entrenched Issues and Proposed Therapeutic Actions.

Amidst the persisting challenges in the Nigerian legal system, the Ariwoola-led judiciary grapples with a myriad of pathologies, each casting a dark shadow on the administration of justice. This narrative aims to dissect the mental health of the Ariwoola judiciary, acknowledging the deeply rooted issues and proposing therapeutic measures for the sake of the nation.

The Nigerian judiciary, akin to a troubled psychological entity, exhibits a spectrum of issues that reflect a deep-seated ailment within its core. Let's delve into the identified problems and elaborate on how they mirror psychological challenges, followed by an exploration of the imperative need for therapy to restore the nation's judicial well-being.

Issues extend beyond the entire judiciary; the recent media report of the critique of the Director General of Law School over the poor state of the law school facility of the River State campus, even when there are monies allocated for such upkeep. Internal disputes within legal associations, such as the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), and the retired Supreme Court justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad's allegations of abuse of power by CJN Ariwoola add layers to these pathologies. Additionally, the crack within the Supreme Court, as revealed by Justice Muhammad, exposes a deeply troubled institution marked by allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

In facing the truth about the Ariwoola judiciary's mental health, a comprehensive therapeutic journey emerges as the only viable path forward. The proposed measures transcend immediate problem-solving; they envision a judiciary not just healed but strengthened for the intricate challenges of the future. It is a call to face the truth, confront the demons within, and emerge with a judiciary that embodies the principles of justice, transparency, and integrity.

Amidst the persisting challenges in the Nigerian legal system, the judiciary, under Chief Justice Olukayode Ariwoola's leadership, is portrayed as a troubled entity suffering from various psychological maladies. The concentration of power in the hands of Justice Ariwoola and the resultant unilateral decision-making at the national judicial council contribute to a distorted mental state within the judiciary. This abuse of power reflects an authoritarian internal conflict, affecting the overall health of the institution.

The issues are multifaceted, ranging from nepotism and corruption in judicial appointments to biased judgments and erosion of justice. The consequences of these pathologies are far-reaching, fostering cynicism, eroding public trust, and undermining faith in the legal system. The legal dispute between Senator Ahmad Lawan and Bashir Sheriff Machina exemplifies the complexities and, arguably, the pathology within the Nigerian judiciary. The twists and turns of the case, where Lawan initially faced challenges but ultimately received a favorable Supreme Court decision, raise questions about the consistency and predictability of legal outcomes. The apparent deviation from the electoral choice of Bashir Sheriff Machina, who won the election, adds to the perception of a judiciary entangled in intricate and sometimes unpredictable dynamics, especially in cases involving influential political figures. The case reflects a broader concern about the state of the Nigerian judiciary and the potential impact of such legal intricacies on the democratic process.

Internal counseling, resembling the interventions applied to resolve leadership conflicts within the NBA, stands as a critical measure for mitigating dysfunction within legal associations. As the Nigerian legal system grapples with persistent challenges, the proposal to decentralize the entire judiciary, fostering state judicial autonomy, emerges as a systemic-based therapy. This initiative aims to positively reshape the judicial landscape and restore effectiveness.

The call for external expertise, reminiscent of a psychiatric approach, involves experts diagnosing and treating the institutional maladies afflicting the judiciary. In the face of deeply ingrained issues within the Nigerian legal system, a therapeutic intervention akin to psychiatric care becomes imperative. The infusion of both external and internal expertise is proposed, mirroring the administration of psychotropic medications to a troubled entity.

The recent conflicting resolutions in the Kano State governorship election judgment further accentuate the integrity challenges within the court. The attribution of a clerical error to justify what seems like a suspicious move to alter a judgment for political purposes raises concerns. These manifestations of extended pathologies are observed across the nation, underlining the impact of a judiciary marked by mental health issues, particularly within the Ariwoola-propelled courts.

Dattijo Muhammad's raised concerns about the chief justice, including allegations of nepotism, authoritarianism, negligence, and inefficiency, highlight systemic problems contributing to an increasingly unhealthy and dysfunctional judiciary in the country. As these issues persist, there is a pressing need for comprehensive internal counseling and systemic reforms to restore the integrity and functionality of the Nigerian judiciary.

Let me allow the readers to hear directly from genuine voices of Nigeria’s judiciary, especially now.

According to Justice Isa Ayo Salami (rtd) “In the circumstance, corruption being criminal in nature, a solution that can be proffered is that judicial officers who are suspected of committing a crime should be referred to the State Security Services, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission or the Nigeria Police for investigation and possible prosecution… The present situation where there are serious allegations of corruption against a judicial officer in several petitions and the National Judicial Council let him off the hook on an investigation of only one of the several petitions and retires him seemingly suggests that the interest of justice has not been served. Thus the contention that corruption had not been proved in the sense that there was no evidence or there was no corroboration would no longer be tenable.

According to Justice Samson Uwaifo (rtd), “A corrupt judge is more harmful to society than a man who runs amok with a dagger in a crowded street. He can be restrained physically. But a corrupt judge deliberately destroys the moral foundation of society and causes incalculable distress to individuals through abusing his office, while still being referred to as ‘honourable’. It is difficult to bring him to account under our system.”

According to Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad, (rtd) “As chair of the NJC, FJSC, NJI and LPPC, appointments as council, board and committee members are at his pleasure. He neither confers with fellow justices nor seeks their counsel or input on any matter related to these bodies. He has both the final and the only say. The CJN has power to appoint 80 percent of members of the council and 60 percent of members of FJSC. The same applies to NJI and LPPC...“Such enormous powers are effortlessly abused. This needs to change…“It is instructive to enquire what the judiciary also does with its allocations. Who is responsible for the expenditure? An unrelenting searchlight needs to be beamed to unravel how the sums are expended.”

In response to these pathologies, a comprehensive therapeutic approach is necessary. The proposed therapy involves a multifaceted strategy, including a new code of ethics, decentralization of judicial power, and external expertise to assess and address systemic issues. Similar to individual therapy sessions, the Nigerian judicial system requires focused interventions for adjustment, growth, and positivity. Just as an individual seeks therapy to address psychological issues, the Nigerian judiciary requires a comprehensive therapeutic intervention. This involves addressing power imbalances, regional disparities, welfare concerns, and internal conflicts. Only through therapeutic measures can the judiciary regain its psychological well-being, ensuring a fair, transparent, and effective legal system for the nation.

The Nigerian judiciary under Chief Justice Ariwoola is in dire need of comprehensive therapy to alleviate its mental sickness. The call for judicial therapy is not metaphorical but rather a pressing need to initiate healing, reform, and restore public trust. The fate of the legal system hinges on decisive therapeutic measures, including a new ethical framework, decentralization, and external expertise. Only through these interventions can the judiciary regain its integrity, ensuring its pivotal role in upholding justice and democratic values in Nigeria.

Amidst the persisting challenges in the Nigerian legal system under Chief Justice Olukayode Ariwoola's leadership, it becomes evident that the judiciary is grappling with severe psychological maladies. The lack of consultation and unchecked decision-making mirrors a dictatorial psychological state where the judiciary becomes a puppet under the whims of a singular authority. This power imbalance fosters an unhealthy environment, leading to dissent and a lack of collective decision-making. The issues are multifaceted, ranging from nepotism, corruption, biased judgments, and erosion of justice, all contributing to a pervasive sense of cynicism and a loss of trust in the legal system.

These pathologies within the judiciary, as raised by Justice Muhammad, demand urgent therapeutic measures. Reforms in the appointment process, distribution of power, and filling of vacant positions are essential to restore faith in the judiciary. A comprehensive review of the judicial structure and its operational dynamics is needed to address the systemic issues highlighted by Justice Muhammad, ensuring a fair, transparent, and accountable judiciary that serves the interests of all Nigerians.

In response to these pathologies, a comprehensive therapeutic approach is necessary. The proposed therapy involves a multifaceted strategy, including a new code of ethics, decentralization of judicial power, and external expertise to assess and address systemic issues. Similar to individual therapy sessions, the Nigerian judicial system requires focused interventions for adjustment, growth, and positivity. Similar to psychiatric treatment, injecting the judiciary with external expertise becomes essential. Bringing in experts, both from within the country and abroad, to assess, clean, and rejuvenate the system is a bold but necessary step. These experts serve as psychiatrists, prescribing remedies to cure the judiciary of its deep-rooted ailments.

Just as in individual therapy, weekly or periodic routine leadership or sub-management sessions become a cornerstone for the judiciary's transformation. These sessions provide a structured platform for open dialogue, conflict resolution, and positive reinforcement. Setting transformative goals, underpinned by accountability, ensures a focused and continuous trajectory towards healing.

The inclusion of diverse perspectives acts as the compass guiding these therapeutic sessions. Drawing insights from legal scholars, social scientists, and civil society representatives enriches the healing process, ensuring a comprehensive and holistic approach.

To address these deep-seated pathologies, a multi-faceted therapeutic approach is imperative. Decentralization emerges as a strategic move, mitigating the concentration of power and fostering a more responsive, diverse judiciary. A new code of ethics, akin to a tailored treatment plan, becomes the foundation for rebuilding trust, ensuring transparency, and promoting integrity.

Amid growing concerns about fairness and the potential for corruption within the judiciary, a compelling movement advocates a departure from systems where a single judge holds absolute authority. Supporters argue that transitioning to a jury system, involving citizens directly as impartial decision-makers, can introduce a more inclusive and transparent approach, reducing the likelihood of biased decisions and rebuilding public trust. In this system, a diverse group of citizens collectively determines the verdict, offering a democratic perspective conveyed to the judge.

Drawing inspiration from the United States, where a Supreme Court of nine justices collaboratively handles cases, Nigeria is urged to adopt a similar fixed-panel model. The current approach of forming panels is perceived as lacking objectivity, leading to suspicions, compromises, and regional or religious pressures. Advocates propose establishing a fixed number of judges, including the Chief Judge, to collaboratively hear and decide cases, fostering greater transparency and fairness within the Nigerian judicial system.

In a recent address to judicial officers, Chief Justice Olukayode Ariwoola urged a focus on the law and not emotions in court cases—a valid point. However, amidst the uproar about his own failings, highlighted by Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad, Ariwoola should reflectively convey to judicial officers that the public is watching. He should caution against nepotism, secrecy in fund usage, and the accumulation of absolute power, emphasizing that such practices go against the principles of law and logic.

Ariwoola's leadership, as pointed out by critics, seems to succumb to sentimental leadership, replacing law with emotions and disregarding logical rule of law. The therapeutic journey proposed for the judiciary aims beyond immediate problem-solving, envisioning a resilient and positively oriented institution, instilling a culture of continuous growth and adaptability.

Confronting the compromised mental health within the Ariwoola-led judiciary requires a profound therapeutic journey. The proposed measures seek to fortify the judiciary, addressing internal issues and building a judiciary embodying justice, transparency, and integrity. The imperative for therapy is critical for healing, reform, and restoring public trust in the Nigerian legal system.

Traditionally revered as a sanctum of healing and fairness, the judiciary has devolved under Ariwoola's leadership, necessitating a comprehensive therapeutic overhaul. Lingering concerns, including nepotism and absolute power, persist. The inadequacy of his emotional defense underscores the urgent need for comprehensive change, calling not just for structural adjustments but also for judicial therapy to rebuild trust.

The call for judicial therapy is a plea to restore the judiciary as a beacon of hope and fairness. The Ariwoola-led judiciary must undergo a comprehensive healing process, not just for legal rulings but also psycho-spiritual support. This therapeutic endeavor is foundational, aiming to build a judiciary that inspires confidence, fosters hope, and genuinely serves the interests of the Nigerian people.

Given the severe accusations against Ariwoola by retired Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad, the same Senate that confirmed him cannot ignore these matters of alleged misconduct. Ariwoola must be asked to respond, either in person or in writing, within a stipulated timeframe. The importance of the judiciary demands accountability and preservation of its integrity for the nation.

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