By Milcah Tanimu
In recent developments, the head of the Kano State National and State Houses of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal, Justice Flora Azinge, has raised concerns regarding alleged attempts by an unnamed Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) to manipulate the tribunal’s proceedings and outcomes through bribery. This revelation has sparked controversy and drawn attention to the ongoing political and legal turmoil surrounding the tribunal.
Justice Azinge stated that a SAN with a pending case before her court is allegedly attempting to offer bribes to influence the tribunal’s decisions. She emphasized that money has been circulating within the tribunal and issued a stern warning against any further attempts to approach her with monetary inducements.
Expressing her frustration, Justice Azinge asserted that this warning was her response to the widespread belief that judges are susceptible to bribes. In a show of conviction, she invoked divine repercussions on anyone who dared to involve money on her behalf.
Naturally, this allegation has generated intense debate among the parties involved, including political operatives pointing fingers at each other and lawyers grappling with the perceived embarrassment.
Eyitayo Fatogun, a SAN who was present during the tribunal session when the allegation was made, spoke on behalf of all the lawyers present and encouraged Justice Azinge to escalate the matter to the appropriate authorities. To support his argument, he cited cases where judges who failed to report such instances were accused of judicial misconduct.
It is our belief that Justice Azinge’s allegations would have served justice better if she had specified the name of the lawyer involved in attempting to manipulate the tribunal with money. This act would have been more effective in protecting the tribunal from the manipulative tactics of desperate politicians who aim to overturn their electoral losses through the tribunal process.
It’s an unfortunate reality that during politically charged situations, like the ones occurring across the country, the judiciary is often subject to accusations of corruption. While these claims can sometimes be baseless, there are instances where the decisions and judgments delivered by the judiciary defy logic, facts, or common sense. The National Judicial Council (NJC) has taken action in response to such allegations on several occasions.
Regrettably, some lawyers have tarnished their profession by acting as conduits for bribes from deep-pocketed clients, which accounts for the exorbitant legal fees often associated with electoral cases. Although judicial officers are not known to make monetary advances to litigants with pending cases, they may still indirectly benefit from such unscrupulous behavior.
Justice Azinge is commendable for bringing this issue to light, and we urge her not to disregard the possibility of formally reporting the matter to the appropriate authorities. It is disappointing that a conversation of this nature has arisen in the first place.
The judiciary holds a sacred responsibility in fostering a robust democratic culture. Allegations of bribery by a sitting tribunal head should not be a topic for public discourse. However, since it is now public knowledge, it cannot be taken lightly. A previous incident involving bribery allegations against a member of the House of Representatives led to conviction after a thorough investigation.
We call upon relevant security agencies and the NJC to initiate a comprehensive investigation into the matter. By delving further into these allegations, efforts to cleanse the perceived corruption within the judiciary can be better advanced.
In line with principles of natural justice, we remind not only the tribunal but the entire judiciary that the world is watching. Justice must not only be served but also be seen to be served in electoral cases and other matters brought before the halls of justice, which serve as the last refuge for the oppressed.