The Judiciary represents the court system in the land, it symbolizes judges and justice. It is the third arm of any modern government and was popularized by Montesquieu, the French political philosopher and jurist who postulated that there should be separation of judicial duties from legislative and executive functions to forestall tyranny. A court system implies a judicial arrangement of graduated competences of hierarchical structural arrangement from lower to superior courts, courts of first instance to Supreme Court, where appeals are taken or heard, and special courts or tribunals, exists in modern democratic states.
The judiciary also has other notable functions according to Akpan (2008) which include punishing offenders of the laws, swearing in of the President and other important public officers, granting letter of administration of estates and above all, guarding against an arbitrary use of power by the other arms of government. For the administration of justice to be fair and equitable in any political setting, it should combine autonomy with accessibility and a certain degree of uniformity. To be fair means that it is objective and fearless. To be equitable implies that court rules are equally applied, as rewards and punishment to both the poor and the rich. Autonomy connotes independence and authority.
Corruption has been the major problem bedeviling Nigeria, as it has virtually defied all solutions so far. In Nigeria bribery and corruption have assumed an alarming rate, established stronghold that the weekly star of 15th May, 1983, quoted in Achebe (1983.43), unequivocally maintains “that keeping an average Nigerian from being corrupt is like keeping a goat from eating yam” Corruption has been recognized as the major enemy of man, it is however, lack of political will to begin to tackle this problem, except for Buhari /Idiagbon regime (1983-1985) and Obasanjo regime (1999-2007). Past futile intervention against corruption include the Corrupt Practices Decree of 1975, the Public Officer (investigation of Assets) Decree No 5 of 1976, supplemented by the Code Of Conduct Bureau and Code Of Conduct Tribunal as provided for in the 1979 constitution. Shehu Shagari ethical revolution (1979-1983), with a minister of cabinet rank in charge of “national guidance”, the “war against indiscipline” campaign under the Buhari and Idiagbon junta which was to some extent the only serious intervention and the National committee on corruption and other Economics crimes under Ibrahim Babangida (1985-93). The IBB regime also came up with the corrupt practice and Economic crime Decree of 1990. Even the Sani Abacha regime (1994-98) came up with its own anti- corruption Decree, the “Indiscipline, Corrupt Practices and Economic Crime (prohibition) Decree 1994” which was a replica of IBB Decree of 1990. However, it is regrettable to note that inspite of interventions by past regimes to stamp out corruption, the evil monster keeps on recurring. According to Okonkwo (2005: 85), a historical view of bribery and corruption in Nigeria shows that rhetoric against corruption does not end corruption. All the inspiring words of our leaders and journalists have not changed anyone. Against this background, it has become unavoidably important to critically assess the judiciary and anticorruption in Nigeria.
Over the years, successive administrations in Nigeria have set up various institutions designed to fight corruption. These institutions have not functioned appropriately and as a result, there is institutionalization of corruption. The above scenario almost turned Nigeria into pariah nation. In foreign states, Nigerians were treated with suspicion and embarrassment and foreigners were wary of making Nigeria their investment destination. The more government devises genuine policies and plans to combat corruption, the more the implementation pattern seems to be frustrated. Corruption, real or imagined, is believed to be so endemic in Nigeria that public disapproval of it has gradually turned into tacit acquiescence and positive acceptance. There is a need to act and investigate the hydra-headed problem of corruption for the sake of the unborn generations. The political and socio-economic destructive effects of corruption have been so overwhelming that unless decisive steps were taken, the state might well be doomed. In spite of the several legislations and multiple institutions put in place to fight corruption, little result has been achieved. This has made people lose hope in our ability to get out of these difficult situations.
On the night of the 7th of October 2016, between the hours of 10 pm and the wee hours of the next day, the Department of State Services (DSS), executing a carefully prepared script, invaded the homes of selected Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in Abuja, Judges of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt and Abuja and State High Court Judges in Gombe and Kaduna States. These judicial officers and their families had their sleep rudely interrupted, homes broken into, searches conducted and reputations tarnished. The Government agency that spearheaded this ordeal anchored these unorthodox actions, on the overriding and compelling necessity to eradicate corruption. It was put in the public domain, snippets of the crimes these judicial officers were said to have committed. By and large, since these strong arm tactics were employed, there have been a torrent of views on both sides of the aisle hotly debating the bona fides or otherwise of the actions of the DSS and its aftermath. In this discourse, it is intended not only to review the legality or otherwise of the steps referred to above, but also to find a lasting solution to the incidences of corruption in the Nigerian Judiciary. There are many other ancillary issues that must be touched upon, such as the role of the National Judicial Council (NJC) and other stakeholders such as the Bar Association (NBA) in the fight against judicial corruption and the impact of public opinion on the evolving issues. Hence the research questions:
1. To analyze the efficacy of Judiciary in its fight against bribery and corruption in Nigeria.
2. To analyze the effect of severe punishment of offenders on anticorruption fight in Nigeria.
3. To identify the challenges militating against the performance of judiciary in its fight against corruption.
The significance of this study or research cannot be over emphasized because of the immense contribution it is supposed to offer in the area of development of knowledge in Judiciary and anti-corruption in Nigeria. Over the years, scholars and experts have dedicated much attention to the study of corruption and their effects on the underdevelopment and development of different world’s economies. This study therefore is centered on the impacts of Judiciary on anti-corruption campaign in Nigeria, and the war against the end called corruption and how the government has used certain policies and institutions to fight this malaise.
This work will serve as a very relevant and important material for further research on activities of the Judiciary in war against bribery and corruption in corruption among nations in the world.