The Chairman of the Election Petition Tribunal for National and State Houses of Assembly in Kano State, Justice Flora Azinge, has voiced her frustration regarding an incident where a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) attempted to offer her a bribe. Addressing the court openly before the proceedings began on Tuesday in Kano, the judge expressed her concern about the unethical behavior exhibited by certain senior lawyers.
While not revealing the specific identity of the senior lawyer involved, Justice Azinge mentioned that the mentioned SAN has a case that is currently pending before the tribunal.
“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 everyday in the papers, in the media — that we are taking bribe.
“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.
But Eyitayo Fatogun, SAN, who was present in the court for a matter, stood up on behalf of all lawyers present, and urged the judge to escalate the matter to the appropriate authorities.
To bolster his argument, the senior counsel said he was privy to cases where judges who failed to report cases of this nature were cited for judicial misconduct.
The concept of lawyers bribing judges highlights the intersection of power, ethics, and accountability within the Nigerian legal landscape.
“Corruption within the judiciary undermines the very essence of a fair and impartial legal process, eroding the foundational principles upon which justice is built. The consequences are far-reaching, affecting individuals, communities, and the overall integrity of the rule of law.”
Reports of lawyers attempting to sway judicial decisions through illicit means underscore the need for comprehensive reforms.
The Nigerian legal fraternity is tasked with introspection and self-regulation to identify and address the root causes that may foster such unethical behaviour. Transparency, accountability, and commitment to upholding the rule of law are vital components in dismantling the culture of corruption, which threatens to undermine the credibility of the justice system.
“Efforts to combat judicial corruption should involve not only legal professionals but also civil society organisations, academia, and governmental bodies.
“Strengthening mechanisms for reporting and addressing allegations of corruption, ensuring the independence of the judiciary, and enhancing ethical training for lawyers are crucial steps in creating a more robust and trustworthy legal ecosystem.”
Contacted for his reaction over the allegation that some lawyers were attempting to bribe some EPT judges, the Kano State Nigeria Bar Association Chairman, S. S. Gezawa, said he read the report in an online newspaper that the Chairperson of the Kano EPT, Justice Azinge alleged that some lawyers were attempting to bribe some judges.
He added that rumour had it that one of the court officials received the sum of N10 million, as a bribe.
“I’ll say, it is what it is, it is an allegation, if any member of the EPT or my Lord, the Chairperson of the panel, Justice Azinge, has any allegation or proof of evidence of such, it can be formalised, a complaint can be channelled to the NBA or to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee for necessary action against the erring lawyer”
“We should also remember that lawyers are not immune to prosecution.”
To this extent, the NBA boss argued that if there is any concrete evidence against any lawyer that he has erred, it can be reported to any of the Security agencies, especially the Anti-Corruption Agencies, the police, the EFCC or the ICPC, if it involves a staff or public servant.
“So long as it has not been formalised, we will see, as my lord said, it is rumours and allegations, that is what it is”, he added.