The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) – which had earlier criticized the SSS for raiding the residences of judges accused of corruption – has asked the NJC to urge these accused judges to ‘’excuse themselves from further judicial functions’’ until their innocence is established. But it seems the NJC is disappointed with the NBA’s new position.
The NJC says this position is unacceptable and unconstitutional. Some lawyers make the same arguments.
But the NJC and these lawyers have missed an important point: It is actually not a question of the constitution, but that of morality and ethics.
And here’s the ethical dilemma the accused judges face if they continue carrying out their judicial functions: the judges will be presiding over trials of corruption and ethical misbehavior when they themselves are burdened with questions of ethical misbehavior and corruption.
This is not to say that they are guilty of all the allegations levelled against them by the SSS. However, stepping aside will preserve the dignity of the Bench, which has been badly battered in the last few weeks. And of course, their own, as well.
Take the case of what happened a few days ago. In a bid to clear himself in his own court, Justice Adeniyi Ademola publicly asked Connell Sambo Dasuki if he knew him or had given anyone money to give to him. Such questions from a presiding judge to an accused person will only give cartoonists a field day.
Adeniyi and other accused judges have made attempts – which have found their way to the public domain – to clear themselves. (Two other judges have linked their ordeal to their refusal to collect bribes from some serving ministers.)
All these attempts to ‘personally’ clear themselves, while they continue performing the role of God here on earth, is unnecessary. (Yes, judges perform the duty of God on earth. A Judge is expected to rise above mere mortal status and dispense justice like King Solomon. And of course, perform the duty many believe should be left to God alone: pronouncing death sentences.)
Now, why should these judges step aside in the first place?
A Judge, like Caesar’s wife, should and must be above suspicion. And according to the Roman Julius Caesar, such suspicions cast doubts on your credibility. (Little wonder that Caesar did the absurd by divorcing his wife, Pompeia, because of a mere suspicion of wrongdoing.)
In order to preserve their respect and dignity, these judges should step aside until they are cleared of all suspicions. Such clearance should be fast-tracked.
It really doesn’t matter if these judges know in their hearts of hearts that they are innocent. They would likely struggle to give themselves the moral authority to act as judges, in the eyes of the public, if they decide to continue their judicial functions.
On this ground, the NBA’s suggestion that they proceed on compulsory leave is apt. But such leave should not be seen as a punishment since they are still presumed to be innocent. Thus, they should be given their full salaries while on leave.
Just like the American novelist Nelson Algren advised in the novel ‘’Walk on the Wild Side’’ that one should never ‘’sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than his own’’, judges should not preside over allegations that might not be worse than their own.
ON PREDICTIONS ON THIS COLUMN
Some weeks ago, I predicted that the former first lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, would argue that the enormous cash linked to her were gifts. And she has just made this argument. This is the only legitimate argument she could make. It is left for Nigerians to believe her or not.
Also, I made a prediction on this page that Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, would win the US elections. In the coming days, I intend to update this prediction. Forget all the polls by the media, it is still not very clear who the winner will be. Stay tuned!