The judgement of Justice Marcel Awokulehin at the Federal High Court, Asaba is a wake up call to all well-meaning Nigerians far and wide to know that justice in Nigeria is still a game of cat and mouse. Justice Awokulehin ruled that 170 count charges levelled against former Governor Ibori of Delta State lacked adequate evidence. Former Governor Ibori was therefore discharged.
Many local and international organisations expressed concern at the judgement of Justice Marcel Awokulehin. The judgement was a shock to many Nigerians at home and abroad. The case was widely reported and the current verdict was expected, as there have been a number of concerns raised about the trial process in the local and international media.
In its recent press release, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has bemoaned the judgement of Justice Awokulehin describing it as “hazy judgement”. The EFCC declared that the judgement could not stand as there was overwhelming evidence establishing the guilt of former Governor James Ibori.
Nigerians have started to develop a gradual trust for the judiciary in Nigeria in recent times. However, the independence and corruption of the judiciary is still a major issue. The trial of former Governor James Ibori is a trial of the Nigerian judiciary. In Nigeria, state governors have political powers to determine the welfare of the judiciary in each state. These political powers and wealth enabled former governor Ibori to exercise unholy power over the judiciary in Asaba. Although the introduction of the National Judicial Council (NJC) has introduced some benefits to the judiciary in Nigeria, there is a long way away from sanity in the whole judicial process in the country.
Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) revealed, “The signs of the incipient miscarriage of justice were unmistakable” in this case. Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) described the judgement as “a travesty and let down”. The Committee for the Defence of Human Right (CDHR) hailed EFCC for its resolve to pursue an appeal against the decision of Justice Marcel Awokulehin. According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), “Nigeria is frequently cited as one of the world’s most corrupt countries.” The BBC disclosed, “Mr Ibori is one of the most wealthy and well-connected politicians in Nigeria.” The BBC stated that Mr Ibori was “notorious among Nigerians for becoming extremely wealthy during his time in power.”
The UK has also brought a case against Mr Ibori and his wife, Theresa. The BBC revealed, “In 2007 a UK court froze assets allegedly belonging to him worth $35m (£21m). His annual salary was less than $25,000.”
It is only in Nigeria where people in political leadership parade themselves as millionaires without any actual proof by way of valid source of income. It is a disappointment that Nigeria and Nigerians are being taken for a ride by its own supposed leaders. Leadership in Nigeria takes a different dimension to any commonsense and human reasoning. It is a travesty and disgrace on the intelligence of Nigerians.
The EFCC has pledged to pursue an appeal against the judgement of Justice Marcel Awokulehin of the Federal High Court Asaba. The whole world is watching and waiting for the eventual outcome of this case. The Appeal Court in Nigeria must come to defend the integrity of the Nigerian judiciary and the juvenile democratic system in Nigeria. Any failure of the Nigerian judiciary in the fight against corrupt practices in Nigeria will plunge the nation deeper into disrepute, worldwide condemnation and total loss of confidence.
We in Champions For Nigeria (CFN) nevertheless still possess an unflinching faith in Nigeria as a Nation and in the Nigerian justice system. We remain convinced that the Nigerian society craves for justice and that we still have men and women of honour, integrity, excellence, sense of justice and virtue who will have a serious, reasonable and impartial look and re-think at this case again and give the people of Delta State, and indeed all Nigerians a glimmer of hope to sustain them in this most difficult period of our democracy. Signed, Bernard Imarhiagbe Akintokunbo A Adejumo
(Publicity & Media Coordinator) (Global Coordinator)
On behalf of
Champions For Nigeria
21 December 2009