Last week, in his Independence anniversary speech, President Muhammadu Buhari threw a jab at the Nigerian judiciary. The president said: “In fighting corruption, however, the government would adhere strictly by the rule of law. Not for the first time I am appealing to the judiciary to join the fight against corruption”. These words not only imply that the judiciary supports corruption, it also suggests that the judiciary has been acting outside due process. This is worrisome. Not just because the president’s words demean judicial institutions, but because they also damage the legitimacy of the judiciary.
This type of statement is the usual preface to executive interference in judicial matters.
It is no secret that the president blames the judiciary for the inefficiency of his anti-corruption crusade. He has touted the establishment of tribunals or special courts (likely under executive supervision) to try corruption cases. In fact, the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption has gone as far as organising a seminar to “guide” judges on sentencing. These may seem proper to a layperson but, frankly, the president’s thinking on these matters is pedestrian at best, malicious at worst. It betrays ignorance of jurisprudence and judicial best practices.