In Kano, ‘All Eyes on the Judiciary’ takes an interesting shape

Recently, the Director-General of the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria, Dr Olalekan Fadolapo, ordered the removal of “All Eyes on the Judiciary” billboards nationwide.

The said advert had popped up in strategic parts of major cities in Nigeria amid anxiety as Nigerians await the judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) sitting in Abuja.

However, instead of those peeping eyes being removed from matters at the PEPT in Abuja, they simply were shifted to another direction with even more fierce and rapt attention.

Speaking in open court before the commencement of the session on Tuesday, August 15, Chairman of the Kano State National and State Houses of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal, Justice Flora Ngozi Azinge, refocused those eyes back on the judiciary but this time in Kano State, when she expressed her anger over attempts by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) to bribe her.

The judge lamented how senior lawyers particularly engage in unethical practices and specifically singled out a SAN who has a pending case before the tribunal. In the typical Nigerian way of expressing hurt and frustration, Justice Arinze placed a curse on those who she said were putting pressure on the tribunal by offering bribes to them and engaging them in media trials.

“A Senior Advocate of Nigeria who has a pending case before me is attempting to bribe me. Money has been flying in this tribunal since yesterday. Whoever collects money on my behalf, God will punish that person and his generation yet unborn — to the fourth generation.
“They keep abusing judges, insulting us every day in the papers, in the media — that we are taking bribes… Let me repeat again that nobody should approach me with money again. I’m contented with what God has given me, and I have a roof over my head,” she said.

Understandably, some SANs who have pending cases before the tribunal Arinze chairs urged the judge to name, shame and report their colleague, or else all of them would be potential suspects on the matter. 

That call prompted Justice Arinze to dial back, stating that she was not directly reached but was offered inducement by proxy.

“What I said was that there is an allegation that money is transferred to the account of an orderly of one of us and a tribunal staff by a lawyer. The said staff is currently under investigation on this matter. A lawyer attempted to bring meat for me during the Eid-El Kabir celebration which I declined and cautioned him that it is unethical.”

We understand her Lordship’s concern not to be misrepresented; but in this instance her clarification amounted to a distinction without a difference. Right-thinking people, especially in Kano, should be truly worried.

The Kano State government has already issued a statement, expressing concern that there are strong forces bent on upturning the outcome of the last governorship election in the state.

The Commissioner for Information, Baba Halilu Dantiye mni, said the alarm by Justice Arinze should not be swept under the carpet. Anyone who has followed the history of Kano politics in recent times will understand why. We were here before in 2019 when anti-democratic forces in the state suborned the will the people and stole their mandate in daylight judiciary robbery.

Governor Yusuf Abba Kabir, who flew the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) flag during the last election, secured 1,019,602 votes to defeat his closest rival, Gawuna Nasiru Yusuf of the All Progressives Party (APC) who polled 890,705 votes.

The 35 percent turnout in that election was nearly 10 percent higher than the turnout the February 25 presidential election, according INEC records.

And the outpouring of jubilation statewide that followed the announcement of the result of the governorship election is an indication of the governor’s acceptance and the peoples’ readiness to defend their mandate this time.

While all eyes are on the tribunal in Kano, there is also a searing side gaze in the direction of an influential member of the ruling APC from the state facing serious allegations of corruption and whose political elevation in spite of these charges has brought opprobrium to his party.

We wish her lordship will name names; but we understand the difficulty that she faces at this time and commend her courage for speaking up. It is heartening that in spite of everything, there are still judges with good conscience and integrity.

To strengthen the hands of Justice Azinge and the Panel, his Lordship the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, must take judicial notice of the concern expressed Her Lordship as indeed one also expects all right-thinking members of the NBA to do.

Those who think that their dollars will buy them Government House will be shocked to find that Kano of 2023 is not Kano of 2019!
We’re watching.

Kabiru Mohammed writes from Kano