It is quite undisputable that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. In an attempt to subdue injustice anywhere, and establish justice everywhere, the judicial system as an arm of government, which has an origin in religion, was institutionalised all over the world. The judicial system or judiciary is a system of court that interprets laws and applies them to their respective areas. Similarly, the judiciary serves as the triumvirate of resolving disputes amongst individuals or groups in a given nation. It usually encompasses a court for final appeal, usually referred to as “Supreme Court” or “Constitutional Court”. The word “judiciary” is also used in describing the personnel, such as judges, magistrates and adjudicators, who constitute the core of a judiciary, they are sometimes referred to as “bench”.
Under the doctrine entitled “separation of powers” which is currently applied in Nigeria, the judiciary generally does not innovate law – which is the fundamental responsibility of legislature or enforce any law – which is the primary responsibility of the executive, but rather strictly and professionally interprets law and applies it to the reality of each case that is brought before the court. This branch of responsibility is often entitled “Equal Justice under the Law”. But in our darling Nigeria, the situation is far from that. The situation is better described as “Unequal Justice under the Law”. Undoubtedly, access to justice in most of our courts is directly proportional to the degree of power and resources under your control or control of someone whom you know. I tender my sincere apology to very few responsible and incorruptible people in the system.
This primary and fundamental responsibility of the judicial system is referred to as retributive justice – which constitutes “fair hearing” and “equality before the law”. This fabulous function of “equal justice under the law” is the icon that has integrated and elevated the judiciary. Because no country can be sustained, promoted, developed and stabilised without justice. As it was interestingly said in the Holy Bible that, “The Lord is known by His justice; the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands” (Psalm 9:16).
Furthermore, in a prophetic message that has been adopted as the framework for x-raying the judicial system in the Nigerian context, the Infallible Prophet (Pbuh) says: “Beware of injustice, for oppression will be darkness upon darkness on the Day of Resurrection; and beware of stinginess (and injustice) because it doomed those who were before you. It incited them to shed blood and treat the unlawful as lawful” (Muslim RH reported it). This prophetic message makes it clear that there will be utmost justice on the Day of Resurrection. So much so that our Lord will address grievances that are unresolved in this world. This serves as a severe warning for people, who are in the position of judges, Qadis, magistrates and others.
Unfortunately, in our darling modern Nigeria, so many forms and dimensions of injustice shamefully destroy our judicial system that had been instituted to promote justice. So many people have been unjustly killed during the past decades and the cases are yet to be addressed and finalised. Many criminals who have confessed to their crimes were released unconditionally. Prime suspects of extra-judicial killings were allowed to go. Many architects of religious and communal crises usually go unpunished, even after being identified. Election disputes are usually resolved in favour of people in power. In the past three decades, there were uncountable judicial and administrative commissions of enquiry which deliberated on so many conflicts without punishing a single perpetrator judicially. Thousands of Nigerians have been imprisoned unjustly in various prisons all over the country without fair hearing. Politicians mostly instigate their supporters to kill during electioneering, and nobody amongst them has ever been brought to book. Some of the documented and approved laws are completely outdated, and substandard.
Similarly, prisons are congested, with genuine prime and fake suspects awaiting trial(s), without food, water and almost all the basic necessities of human life. Many corruption-related cases have been brought against highly-placed officials, which include thieving former president(s), governors, senators, ministers, permanent secretaries, commissioners, special advisers and many other executive and principal officers. Yet no single case has ever been brought to a satisfactory conclusion. Sir Walter Savage Landor has nicely emphasised that “Delay of justice is injustice”, and justice delayed is justice denied. Unfortunately, in the Nigerian context there are so many cases of delay of justice that are clear injustice whether to the suspects or to the masses of Nigeria.
Consequently, “Inequality before the law” has replaced “equality before the law”; some high-placed Nigerians are above the law constitutionally as a result of an unjustifiable immunity clause, while others are above the law politically and sentimentally. Because they belong to the largest and perhaps most disastrous party in Africa, as such they are now only “People Deceiving People”. In the Nigerian context, whoever needs “political immunity” after perpetrating a crime will immediately join the party and consequently all charges against him will instantly and ceremoniously be dropped, and in the end, he would be appointed to another lucrative office to continue sucking the precious blood of the masses.
One might ask, why have these unjust judges and corrupt leaders yet to be punished in spite of all these atrocities of injustice? Our beloved Prophet answered the question by teaching us the divine methodology of executing unjust people. He (Pbuh) says: “Verily, Allah gives respite to the Unjust or Oppressor. But when He seizes him; He does not let him escape”. Then the Prophet (Pbuh) recited: Such is the seizure of your Lord when He seizes the population of the town (country) while they are Unjust. Verily, His seizure is painful (and) severe (Q11:102). Our Lord mostly delays punishing unjust judges and corrupt leaders so that, they may think deeply, repent and honestly turn to justice.
There is an urgent need for the few responsible and just people in the judicial system of government to make sacrifices to rescue this essential tier of government by establishing justice through their final judgment against some political robbers, criminals and their sponsors. Martin Luther King opined that, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals”. May our Lord save our sinking Nigeria from the ocean of injustice. So beware of injustice please…
Mr. Pantami (firstname.lastname@example.org), an Islamic cleric, is a lecturer at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, and Ph.D Candidate (Computing & IT) in the United Kingdom
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