—Onnoghen: Gani Fawehinmi Won’t Have Joined The Crowd,By Adejumo Kabir
“Any public officer that does not declare his or her assets publicly is a public thief” – Tam David – West
YBTC News—As a student of history, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in the 80s never mobilised 20 lawyers to defend any lawyer or judge charged with corrupt practices let alone mobilising lawyers in their hundreds.
After a man admitted that he truly did not declare some of his assets, senior lawyers proceeded to court, Facebook activists and Twitter counsels continue to defend Walter Onnoghen’s fraud. They argue that the process employed in dealing with the CJN is/was wrong but they closed their eyes against the offence itself. Some are even particular about the speed at which the matter was handled. Should we really disturb ourselves with this? Onnoghen is first a Nigerian before being the CJN. So, if he has been charged for murder, the NJC would have still been the body to try him?
The present shame reminds me of Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi. During his days, Gani believed that in the fight against corruption, all was fair.
The late senior advocate of the masses would not have followed the crowd, despite being a freedom fighter, Gani would have excused himself from the defense of the CJN and he could have questioned the morality behind representing a man who already knew he was wrong. The Gani I read about would have demanded the resignation of Onnoghen even if at all the legal wizard will defend him.
If not everybody, some will agree with me that the NBA is not always right with respect to the anti-corruption crusade. A typical example was what happened in 1984 when lawyers were asked to boycott courts all in the name of protesting the trial of corrupt politicians by the Special Military Tribunals set up by the Buhari/Idiagbon junta. As expected, clear-headed Gani defied the NBA and his name was written in their black book.
He (Gani) supported all possible means to fight against corruption even when others perceived breach of the rule of law and I will quickly educate those that wish you to learn history of how Gani threw his weight behind the removal of Governor Dariye of Plateau State from office on the grounds of corruption despite being perfected by less than 1/3 of the members of the House of Assembly. Reports still have it that only six assembly members removed the governor during the period when Nuhu Ribadu was EFCC chair.
As at the time of this piece, the NJC and the NBA often defend judges and lawyers involved in the illegality than they call them to order. Rushing to court to secure injunctions to frustrate the investigation and prosecution of the their colleagues should not be celebrated.
In 2011 when the head National Judicial Institute, Justice Umaru Eri was involved in N6 billion fraud and invited for interrogation by the ICPC, the then sitting Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the Institute asked him to ignore the invitation. He did and afterwards got an injunction at a Federal High Court to halt the investigation.
Reports have it that he thereafter collated names of 18 workers of the institute and sacked them based on the fact that he believed that they were those that exposed his fraud to the ICPC. This is just to give example of how we allow corruption to reign even in the judicial system.
It is also important to note that this is democracy not military dictatorship. While Onnoghen failed to resign honourably, President Muhammodu Buhari should have allowed the court to adjudicate on the matter regardless of the weight of the allegation against Onnoghen.
CCT order of suspension has ‘k-leg’ and Onnoghen is free to appeal the constitutionality of the order.
Adejumo Kabir is a student journalist at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun.
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