The clean hands doctrine is a simple doctrine that says “who comes to equity must come with clean hands”.
The judiciary is the third arm of government whose primary role is to interpret laws enacted by the legislature and applies such existing law to individual cases. It has become obvious to the watchers of the third arm of government that all is not well, and the institution and it is on the verge of being destroyed, some components may still be redeemable if the right steps are taken.
But who will clean the Augean stable? Who will dispense justice in the house of Justice, this question is on the lips of many, because the courts are the last resort of the common man.
The events happening in the judiciary, have long been foretold, there have always been signs of high imperfection. It will be recalled that a few decades ago a panel was set up to look into the problems and proffer solutions to the betterment of the judiciary in Nigeria. The Justice Kayode ESO JSC Panel had amongst other notable legal minds like Col Fadile of the Nigerian Army. The panel indicted many judges, including those who had passed away and those who were alive, the report recommended dismissals, outright retirement from the service for those who were found wanting but like other reports nothing was ever done about it, it never so the light of day. Several of the indicted judicial actors went ahead down their career paths to cause further destruction to the noble profession in Nigeria.
There are hardly any Heads of Court that can stand scrutiny and pass integrity tests, this shouldn’t be so in a country in need of social justice reforms like Nigeria.
In recent history we have the cases of Justice Walter Onnoghen GCON and the many cases of corruption allegation leveled against him, most recently is also the vague reasons amdist other purported notions around the resignation of Justice Tanko Muhammad, where in actual fact the reasons bothered on breaching the integrity of his office, all of these infractions happened within the timeline of 2-3 years.
Recently retired Honorable Justice Ejemba Eko of the Apex court retired during his valedictory address was bold enough to specifically poin out that the ICPC and EFCC should investigate the Head of Courts in Nigeria that is to say the Chief Judge of States, High Courts, Chief Justice Federal High Court, Customary courts, Grand Khadis of SCA, Presidents of Court of Appeal, Chief Justice of Nigeria due to their recklessness in terms of financial and administrative misdemeanors alongside other scandals that are regular occurrences going on in this arm of government.
In all of these, there’s no where it has become so glaring the malfeasance in this arm of government like the Court of Appeal and it is time for men and women of goodwill to write and bring their voice to expose what’s going on
There’s the issue of where the President of the Court comfortably procured two expensive cars with customized specifications as official cars. Meanwhile, the brother Justices of the Court are still using the same official vehicles for over 8/9 years without being changed. The vehicles procured by the President are worth more than 600 million Naira while other justices continue to wallow in the indignity of driving barely serviceable cars. In the event where Justices are even given vehicles under the honorable court, what comes to them are refurbished cars that have seen better days and have accrued mileage. Still talking social safety nets for staff, the most unfortunate aspect of what is going on is that in last two years there has been no any payment whatsoever of roving allowances to lawyers unlike in other ministries and parastatals these were benefits that lawyers used to enjoy in the past like their other counterparts in other MDAs but however it is no longer the case even the meager roving allowance no longer come.
The direst fact of what’s happening at the court is the quantum of money that is being owed contractors. Contractors that have executed jobs with the court after running into hundreds of millions of Naira have still not been paid these include even monies appropriated for the payments of such contracts because it means the court has expended the sums without the necessary virement, which is indeed a financial crime as far as the financial laws in Nigeria are concerned. Even members of staff under accounts have been given leave to rest so that management will not be bothered by the demands of contractors and important staff claims. It is sad to note that the court warehouse/stores department have become a ghost of itself with no stationary to work with.
Another most worrisome issue in terms of welfare is that there has been no international training for Justices of the court in several years. But it is interesting to note that the President benefited from medical tourism abroad after a bathroom fall, this is inspite of the well-equipped medical center with a full retinue of well-trained doctors on the premises of the Court. These behaviors are unbecoming and unacceptable from the Head of Court; most importantly these mistreatments are not being meted out to the brother Justices alone it has trickled down to the supporting staff of the court. Because social safety nets like NHIS haven’t been paid between 2019 to date, the HMO had to write all hospitals in the country not to attend to any staff from that court on no account, due to the non-servicing of liabilities. The absence of this health safety net has brought about embarrassment, untold hardship and it has endangered staff and their families because of the inability. Long before now supporting staff were enjoying
It is unimaginable that for two years no practicing fees have been paid to the NBA, and roving allowances amongst other anomalies. But due to the unexpected retirement of the CJN, the President of the court recently paid the NBA Conference for some lawyers at the court to justify being good to the supporting staff. This is not enough to undo the ceaseless wrongs that have been going on nor appease those who feel aggrieved. As a further way of appeasement, the court is paying for justices to proceed abroad for training all in a bid to calm frayed nerves.
A stitch in time saves nine, we must collectively come together to salvage what is left of the judiciary or else the refuge of the common man will be in permanent ruins.