Reactions to the discharge and acquittal of Senate President Bukola Saraki by the CCT has been most unbelievable even though not entirely surprising.
It was clear from the outset that many people were already prejudiced against Saraki and that they were only waiting to see him convicted. Perhaps that is understandable. The swell of propaganda against Saraki before and after his arraignment was enough to condemn him in the court of public opinion but that court can only remain what it is – a platform for mere mob justice and reputation smearing without any force of law. A platform largely ruled by emotions and prejudices that are not necessary based on empirical reasoning.
But the court of law, which has the weight of finality in situations like this is governed by a method, a set of rules whose observance guarantees predictable results. One expected Nigerians to know and respect this, especially as a lot of us are beginning to talk about the imperative of fairness and justice. But any such hope was clearly mistaken.
Now, my argument here is not essentially about whether Saraki indeed committed any or all of the offences listed in the 18 count charge that he faced but the fact that the Code of Conduct Tribunal, which tried him, said the prosecution failed to prove its case as is fundamentally required by the law in cases of this nature.
I don’t think one needed to be a lawyer to have seen the hopelessness of the prosecution’s case in this matter. Those who decide cases in court depend on evidence presented to them in open court, since they were not at the venue of the alleged event. And even if they were, a presiding judicial officer is not allowed to testify in a matter over which he sits in judgment. That would only happen when he is put in the witness box. Extraneous facts like the feelings or testimony of a presiding judge would be definitely fatal to a case on appeal so, evidence presented in court has to be fool-proof
The cross examination of prosecution witnesses in the case under discussion revealed a plethora of a lack of respect for procedure and inconsistent testimonies such that a conviction in the circumstance would have been anything but justice. But many of our people apparently thought differently.
Perhaps the reactions would not be so alarming had these people addressed the sloppy prosecution but to ignore that fact and attack the integrity of the court is evidence of a much serious problem that we must be wary of.
When a people lose confidence in their judicial system, that society is only one step away from anarchy. The judiciary of a country is not just the last hope of the common man, it is also a sacred temple whose decisions do not just define the moment but also present a pattern for the future. It is also a window through which the international community see that society; when we tell the world that we have lost confidence in our judiciary, we subject ourselves to ridicule and become objects of discrimination around the world.
This is one of the repercussions of tarring members of the country’s judiciary with the same brush of corruption. There are indeed corrupt judges in Nigeria in the same way in which you have corrupt lawyers, journalists, teachers, clergymen, politicians and what have you, but it is too long a stretch to suggest that all judges are corrupt, which is what this sort of reaction proposes.
No matter what it is, we must not lose confidence in the ability of the nation’s judiciary to dispense justice. Of course, there are times when justice is not properly served at the court of first instance. The law already anticipated that which is why there is an appellate system, which allows you to climb two, sometimes three more rungs from the court that first tried your matter. This is a far more civil, beneficial and patriotic way of registering discontent. This mob attitude does us no good at all!