For Corruption To Thrive; There Must Be A Giver And A Taker.
Some pictures of two young Chinese men with two banners respectively dangling around their tiny necks, of which a further observation would reveal some corruption allegation inscriptions written thereon have been trending since yesterday. In addition, placed right in front of these two gentlemen are some items suspected to be bundles of Naira notes, estimated at 50Million Naira (only) and reportedly offered as bribe to an official of the anti-graft Commission (EFCC). The official in question reportedly rejected what was meant to be a part payment (as he was promised 100Million Naira). Kudos to the good man!
Then, I remembered my experience in my earlier days of practice. I think I was 4 years at the Bar at the material time. A client briefed me and some of my friends (can you remember “Army” Muyiwa Ogunkolade?) to represent him at a Magistrates’ Court somewhere. It was a criminal case. He had a heated argument with the step-mother and because there was no love lust between them, the result was an outbreak of fisticuffs.
Our client was arraigned before the court and he pleaded not guilty. A trial date was given. In the course of trial we observed that the complainant was unusually confident and we had every cause to reasonably suspect that same could not have been unconnected with the rumoured amorous relationship which existed between the court and the victim of the crime. The court was hostile towards our legal team, for no just cause, at least for none that we knew of. We forged ahead and put in our best. The client in question was ordinarily resident in the US, but his (Nigerian) wife, together with the baby was resident in Nigeria. The wife stood as surety for him at the Police station (this fact is very relevant to the post). Shortly before the court adjourned the matter on one of the dates, our legal team sought leave on behalf of the client to enable him to travel to the US for his medicals. The court refused our application despite the hospital appointment papers placed before it. However, our client defied the court order and travelled. He genuinely had a serious health issue at the time.
Behold, the adjourned date came and our client was nowhere to be found. The court was furious and threatened to commit the surety since failure on the part of a surety to produce an accused person whenever his presence is required has been criminalized. We pleaded but all our passionate pleas fell on the deaf side of the hallowed Temple of Justice. The court stood down the matter and ordered the surety to produce the accused before 2.00pm or face arraignment and or possible imprisonment. I forgot to add that we had filed an affidavit earlier, explaining the absence of the client. The court ignored same. At about 1.30pm, the poor woman sought and received our audience and that was when she informed us that she had been approached by the court registrar who demanded a sum of 200,000Naira as bribe for His Honour (without honour). They reportedly negotiated and agreed on a sum of 100,000Naira as full and final. My disposition is clear in this regard, whatever you want to discuss with the court, please go ahead and not bring me in as I will never be a party to same or serve as your agent. We gave her our condition. We were ready to play ball provided she was ready to depose to an affidavit and state on oath that the court demanded a bribe and she gave. We schooled her that both the giver and the taker were culpable but gave her assurances that the court will be forced to tread with caution from that moment and her liberty will not be in jeopardy. Brave woman, she agreed. She parted with the bribe at about 3.50 pm. The now satisfied, compromised and corrupt court sat at about 4.20 pm. She was warned and discharged. I forgot to add that all of this took place on a Friday!
Following the afore-written, before the next adjournment, we had prepared an application, asking the court to recuse itself on grounds of corruption. At that point, it dawned on us that we were playing with fire. Unanimously, we decided to beef up our team and the first name that came to our minds was that of one of the few great minds who taught me the little Law I know today, my Oga Eubena Amedu. He agreed to lead us! On our own part, we recruited 12 lawyers!
On the date slated for hearing, the 12 of us, led by my Oga appeared in the court under reference. When the court saw us, it laughed and it became apparent that the court had not seen what was coming. The judge sarcastically said “…yes, why are all of you appearing in this little matter?” Few minutes later, he flipped through the pages and when he sought to know the ground for the application, he was guided accordingly. The moment he saw the paragraphs relied on specifically, he rose! Few minutes after, he sent his registrar to the lead counsel and they engaged in some mature talks (classified and confidential), as colleagues now, and that was the end of intimidation in that court. The application was withdrawn and his job was preserved. I learnt that he was later booted out of the Judiciary.
I still insist that corruption cannot and will not thrive if and where there are no willing givers and takers. Corrupt public officers know for sure that members of the public have a phobia for due process. They are allergic to due process. Ours is a quick fix generation. No matter how beautifully designed the system is, a corrupt citizen will design ways of sabotaging same. In fact, beating the system, that is what some citizens do for a living. For as long as there is consensus ad idem between the giver and taker of graft, we shall continue to move in circles as far as the fight against corruption is concerned. So much motion, no movement. We need men who would break the chain of corruption by refusing to either take, or give.