An activist and former President of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), Charles Oputa, a.k.a Charly Boy, said in Lagos on Sunday that his late father, a retired justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, will be cringing in his grave over corruption in the nation’s judiciary.
He spoke at the 13th Chief Gani Fawehinmi Annual Memorial lecture and symposium with the theme, “Nigeria Anti-Corruption War: Whither The Legal Profession and The Judiciary?”
“The masses are being corrupted by fear, my father, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, must be cringing in his grave because of what #he corruption in the nation’s judiciary.
“Corruption has not just become our way of life in Nigeria, but has become our legal tandem.
“The Nigerian people are being looted by all sides, religious leaders are not helping the people, they are continuously hypnotising my people with miracles, signs and wonders,” he said.
Oputa, who said corruption had reached an intolerable level,disclosed that he was currently involved in an activism project designed to tackle corruption and injustice in the country.
He said: “I am involved in a street project titled, ‘our mumu don do’; this is a project through which I believe the judiciary can be cleansed of by a movement led by the masses.
“Lawyers have become contractors, judges have opened mega banks in their homes at their villages, justice in Nigeria comes at a price.”
Noting that not all members of the bar and bench are corrupt, he added:“Not all members of the judiciary and legal profession are bad, but current events have ridiculed the legacy left behind by my father and other legal icons.
“The docility of the Nigerian populace has to be addressed with the emancipation of their minds because the humanity of Fawehinmi no longer exists in the country.”
Prof. Jacob Dada, a Justice of the Court of Appeal in the Gambia, in his speech, said some members of the judiciary and legal profession have sabotaged the war against corruption.
“Not a few members have demonstrated fidelity in the war against corruption, some have sabotaged the corruption fight.
“They are the fifth columnist in the battle against corruption, they have frustrated the expeditious prosecution of corruption cases against high profile individuals,” he said.
On the raids of the homes of judges suspected to be corrupt by the Department of State Security (DSS) in 2016, Dada said:“2016 cannot be forgotten due to the unprecedented raids of the homes of alleged corrupt judges.
“This exposed the legal profession to a lot of public opinion and was a huge dent on the legal profession.
“I will not comment on the legality or otherwise of the raid, but it was caused by the strong perception of the public that justice is available in Nigeria is at a price.
“Some of these perceptions are caused by horrendous and inexplicable delays in the cases of corruption and the delivery of ridiculous and deplorable judgments.
“Also, the scourge of corruption which resulted in the investigation of judges leading to their resignation and retirement is a cause of these perceptions.”
Dada said that Nigeria had enough “weapons” at her disposal to combat and degrade corruption, adding “we must appreciate and realise that without battles, there will be no victories.”
Also speaking at the lecture, Prof. Omotoye Olorode, a lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun, said that privatisation of the country’s national assets was the greatest form of corruption.
Oloyode, in his keynote address entitled, “Corruption in Nigeria, Judiciary, Law: A Political Economy of Private Economy”, said: “Privatisation which is the looting of public property is the ultimate corruption.
“There is a political corruption of the Nigerian public by the ruling class, it is unsurprising to see the charade by political party corruption play out in the judiciary.
“Privatisation is the ultimate looting programme; one of the diseases of the populace is the forced amnesia imposed on the populace which makes them forget all that has happened to them.”
Olorode accused the ruling class of flagrant disobedience of court orders particularly when their positions of leadership came under threat.
“The war against corruption is a political action, we have to ask ourselves who are leading the war, is it the political class or the populace ?”
The Chairman of the occasion, Pa Tunji Gomez, in his address, enjoined lawyers to avoid corrupt practices.
“Lawyers are in every facet of this country and the positions of lawyers are very important. We must have a code of conduct that abhors corruption.”
Gomez, a lawyer who once represented Chief Obafemi Awolowo during his 56 years of legal practice, noted that corruption had infiltrated every aspect of Nigerian society.
“We are a society of corruption, the judges, lawyers, the police and the military are corrupt.
“Curing a society of corruption starts with the people, we the people must stage this fight,” Gomez said.
In his address of welcome, Mr Adeshina Ogunlana, the Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja Branch, noted that the late Fawehinmi was passionate about the annual lecture.
“Fawehinmi embraced the programme and he passionately supported it during his lifetime.
“He made provisions for the annual programme in his will before he passed on and support for this programme was paid promptly by the executors of his estate.
“Due to his support, the NBA has been hosting this programme for 12 unbroken years since 2005,” Ogunlana said. (NAN)