Legal Nigeria

Between Dino Melaye and the judiciary

By Phrank Shaibu
When a weighty and scandalous press release is made by a party to a case before the Appellate Court on allegations against the judges of such an important branch of the Nigerian Judiciary, it will be very unwise and most unfair to leave such well publicized accusations uninvestigated or suppressed. Indeed, it really does not matter whether the allegations are true or false because such remarks coming from a party to the case if left uninvestigated have the potency to attract disaffection of the general public on the likely ruling by the accused judges.
As such, it is of extreme importance to alert the reading public that deconstructing and addressing the recent allegations made by Senator Dino Melaye against the Nigerian Judiciary is not only vital for ensuring the promotion of an equitable society,  it is very important for assuring Nigerians that our collective quest for a vibrant democratic society is on course.
Consequently, this article in its narrative and analysis of the press release by Senator Melaye attempts to examine some points that are considered important to our democracy. It reviews public opinion on such an issue of general interest and urges the Nigerian judiciary to expeditiously conduct a thorough examination on the remarks against it. In the said press release, Melaye, the present representative of Kogi West Senatorial District at the Nigerian Senate, accused some persons of providing support to one Senator Smart Adeyemi, who is currently contesting his electoral triumph at the Court of Appeal. Specifically, Senator Melaye in the press release is quoted to have told journalists in Abuja that ‘the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu,  had contacted the immediate-past Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN), to take over the legal battle on behalf of Adeyemi.  Furthermore, in the same press briefing, Senator Melaye was reported to have disclosed that “on the request of Tinubu, Adeyemi had forwarded details of the suit to Adoke, asking him to look for a judge in the Court of Appeal that would offer assistance’. According to Senator Melaye: ‘I am privy to an electronic mail sent to Adoke by an Abuja-based senior editor who is close to Tinubu in which he forwarded the court papers filed by Smart Adeyemi at the tribunal to Adoke. In the said e-mail, Adoke was allegedly told to look for a trusted justice in the Court of Appeal who would be useful for Smart Adeyemi.”Even though Asiwaju Tinubu has publicly denied the allegations as a “kitchen of malicious lies,” this does not bury the naked allegation of corruption by Senator Melaye against the Nigerian Judiciary. By now, it is possible that Asiwaju Tinubu may have forgiven Senator Melaye after the rumoured back door apology and fence mending meeting between both men who are from the same political umbrella. Nevertheless, the fact is that this matter has transcended beyond party politics as the corruption accusation against the Nigerian Judiciary cannot be simply addressed as done with Asiwaju Tinubu. As such, the allegations by Senator Melaye against the judiciary must be properly investigated. Otherwise, it may pave way for the ridicule of Nigeria’s justice system.  Hitherto, my position had been that any person that makes derogatory statements against the judiciary without substantive evidence and thoughts of the consequences may be deficient in ability to apply his mind seriously to vital issues.  However, this particular incident is very different because the very fact that the referenced remarks are quoted to have emanated from Senator Melaye, a member of the upper legislative House of Nigeria, provides no excuse for ignorance or that the Senator is unaware of the implications of using such slanderous remarks to rubbish the image of the Nigerian judiciary.
As much as the views herein do not in any way advance the belief that the judiciary should be immune to objective and rational criticisms, it is however important to recognise that when criticisms against the judiciary are not backed with any credible evidence, they amount to unfair and unreasonable condemnation.  Also, when criticisms are based on apparent twist of facts made in a manner which is intended to lower the esteem of the judiciary and destroy public confidence, they cannot be said to be objective.
Consequently, from all good sense of logic, a review of Senator Melaye’s remarks shows that they have the potency to belittle the value of the judiciary having portrayed it as capable of bias and corruption. These embarrassing comments by a Nigerian Senator not only puts doubt in the confidence which the Nigerian people repose in the courts of justice but diminishes the role of the Nigerian Judiciary as the custodian of the rule of law. For emphasis, in any decent democracy that upholds separation of powers amongst the three arms of government, the rule of law ought to be one of its strong pillars for good governance. As such, the scary issue of corruption raised by Senator Melaye against the judiciary should be of grave concern to the Nigerian Government, especially coming from a senior member of another independent arm of government.
Indeed, this comment against the judiciary in a country that is striving to be free of corruption is most unfortunate. Any thought that encourages the judiciary to remain mute in this particular circumstance must be wholly condemned as it may even portray the judiciary as working at variance with the Executive and Legislative arms of a government which has been preaching zero tolerance for corruption and spreading the message of positive change for the enthronement of due process, observance of the rule of law and respect for the judiciary.  As such, in the continued absence of a contrary opinion by the Judiciary, these remarks will dent the image of Nigerian judges and may even serve as a major vehicle to weaken the foundation and independence of Nigeria’s judiciary before the eyes of the world.