A fortnight ago, Nigeria’s stinking linens were once again washed in the prying eyes of the public. It was at the valedictory session of the 9th Senate when a ‘Distinguished’ Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, openly told his colleagues how he triggered the ‘benevolence’ of his wife, a retired judicial officer to help them when they needed it. Despite putting up a spirited effort to stop the father-confessor, the (now former) Senate President Ahmad Lawan failed in his mission to stop the octogenarian from spilling the foul beans.
Contrary to what many have posited, the truth-telling exercise by the 83-year-old senator, Ahmad Muhammad Bulkachuwa was not a Freudian slip. The clash between the intensity of the moves by his colleagues to extinguish the flame of forthrightness in him and stop him from speaking, and his determination not to give up clearly explains that the old man was ostensibly seized by valedictory emotions and had the strong urge to reveal the whole truth.
Defying the fact that he was speaking on national television, Sen. Bulkachuwa began by graciously appreciating his wife who was President of the Court of Appeal until her retirement last year for allowing him the ungodly privilege of using her to serially pervert justice in Nigeria. His colleague Senators who he mentioned as unworthy beneficiaries of the judicial abomination could not hide their shock but faced with shame, they watched helplessly as the Bauchi Senator gave Nigerians a confirmation of what they already knew.
Senator Bulkachuwa, whose tongue appeared to be possessed by karmic forces, on the ungodly Saturday afternoon said; ‘My wife, whose freedom and independence I encroached upon while (she) was in office, and she has been very tolerant and accepted my encroachment and extended her help to my colleagues,’ he said. The former Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, on realising the old man was making dangerous revelations of their secret practices in public, stopped him saying: ‘Distinguished, I don’t think this is a good idea going this direction. It is not a good idea, please.’ Impeded by a lack of support and the ferociousness of a determined Lawan, the old Senator gave up his mission and took his seat.
If Lawan who got into the 10th assembly without participating in a primary election was not a direct beneficiary of Bulkachuwa’s ungodly extrajudicial help then there is no way he would not have been interested in the rare unravelling of the Nigerian judiciary which is supposed to be the last hope of the common man. By blocking a raging Bulkachuwa from shining his torchlight on the putrid bowels of the Nigerian judiciary, he robbed Nigerians of something tangible to hold onto in their persistent calls for judicial reforms.
The truth is that, as indicting and incriminating those revelations were, the reason it failed to generate any uproar of any sort from Nigerians was that it didn’t shock a lot of people. Only a few Nigerians were shocked to learn that such judicial impunity goes on in the country’s hallowed chambers of justice. What those bizarre moments did was confirm what people already suspected and probably knew.
The independence of the Nigerian judiciary has been called to question, and the dent is damaging. It is simply a shame not only on the incriminated judge but also on the Nigerian judiciary as a whole, which tolerated characters like her until her retirement.
Justice Bulkachuwa was simply a rotten egg, to say the least. Many Nigerians will recall how sometime in 2020 when she was still President of the Court of Appeal when she shared her 4-decade experience with journalists in Lagos. Specifically, she vehemently denied an allegation that was flying around at that time that she took a 6 billion naira bribe, her exact words were; ‘There was a time when allegations were flying around that I was given 6 billion naira, and I laughed. So, if I was given 6 billion naira, do you think I would still be here?’, she wondered. The shameless jurist even went on to distance her judicial duties from her husband’s political life. Well, against the backdrop of her husband’s comments, it is now difficult to believe her, because if she indeed betrayed the ethics of her profession on the basis of spousal influence, doing it for a more rewarding financial reason wouldn’t be too much of a sin.
One of the striking examples of when the Nigerian judiciary was ‘Bulkachuwalised’ was sometime in 2018 when a certain man from Bauchi contested the APC senate primaries and was duly declared the winner. INEC monitored the process and was very satisfied only for the APC to submit the name of the loser. Renowned legal luminary, Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, had to sweat through the three tiers of courts in electoral jurisprudence in Nigeria and came back empty-handed. Perhaps, had Senator Bulkachuwa been allowed by the fraud-loving Senate President, the mystery of that judicial abracadabra might have been uncovered.
The growing appetite of judges in Nigeria to allow interference is becoming glaring. These morally half-baked judges have ignored the fact that their actions actually leave legal scholarship stunted while throwing the rule of law in the dustbin. The unruly gluttony does not only happen in Justice Bulkachuwa’s Appeal court; it cuts across all the courts.
The bulkachuwalisation menace in the judiciary has no bounds. From perpetual injunctions to black market injunctions from remote courts and bizarre decisions in election cases, the tools are many. Many Nigerians will not easily forget how the Chief justice of the country openly praised a governor who had just been certified fantastically corrupt by the EFCC.
It is so brazen that politicians in Nigeria no longer hide it or discuss their plans in hushed tones. A few months ago, the outgone Governor of Ebonyi State openly told the world how his fellow Governor (Nyseome Wike) removed him as a Governor using the Federal High Court despite not being a party to the suit! Such promiscuity. Sadly, that is the new normal in Nigeria and the rot keeps deepening.
In recent times, the maxim, ‘Go to court’ has today become a cruel joke in Nigeria. Most Nigerian politicians use it at will. They deploy all means to be declared winners by the umpires and urge the other party to go and seek redress in courts. Most Nigerians no longer believe that their judiciary can either bite or bark. Rightly or wrongly, the justices in Nigerian courts have earned themselves the uncanny reputation as wheelers and dealers of a tainted citadel of justice!
Unfortunately, the judiciary which is supposed to be self-regulating has refused to make any amends. A week ago, the National Judicial Council (NJC), held its usual meeting and chose aloofness on the matter, arguing through an official that the judge in question was already retired, as such no disciplinary measures can be taken against her. The truth is that they evidently knew that all their hands were soiled and there were no clean hands to carry out the image cleansing.
What the members of the bench failed to do was to come to the realisation that the integrity and independence of the judiciary were on the front burner and due to the widespread belief, and based on credible allegations that quite a lot of judicial officers soil the reputation of the judiciary through decisions based on pecuniary rewards, political, ethnic and religious influences! making nonsense of the entire judiciary.
Going forward, the NJC must end the charade and stop acting deaf and dumb by swinging into action to thoroughly investigate the activities of the retired Court of Appeal President during her time in office; review the embarrassing judicial pronouncements or decisions which allegedly characterised her time at the helm of the court of appeal; and prosecute her alongside her husband and other co-travellers on the lane of perversion of justice.
If they have any iota of integrity, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), must, as a matter of urgency, immediately invite Senator Bulkachuwa for interrogation and proceed to prosecute him accordingly. He has already admitted to committing a crime. The continued silence of law enforcement agents is too loud and must not be allowed to continue.
In conclusion, the Nigeria judiciary must clearly take note of the fact that by his confessions, Senator Bulkachuwa has bared her loins to public view and compounded her existing crisis of confidence before Nigerians. Correcting the damage will depend on how much deep soul-searching they’re able to do in the months ahead.