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Corruption Within The Judiciary: Causes And Solution


Corruption Within The Judiciary: Causes And Solution


The global perception of Nigeria as the black hole of corruption stems from its historical purview, where corruption – a persistent cankerworm – comes as a vestige of colonial legacy. With the initiation of corruption into the Nigerian ethos, its tentacles permeate from the highest governmental chambers to the least of its strata. Thus, it would not be a fallacy to state without mincing words that corruption has been the foundation of maladministration in Nigeria and the fuel of intra & inter-state conflicts. Deep into the societal fabric has this negative phenomenon eaten, such that even the judicial sector – the last hope of the average man – has not been spared. Without gain saying, it is believed that corruption seems to be astyle of living in Nigeria – it is a way of life – and is responsible for the dashed hope of numerous lives in the country. It is against this backdrop that this essay lays on itself the burden of analyzing in simple concepts, thenature of corruption, it further seeks to provide an exposition into its causes, and climax with feasible recommendations to the menace it has posed.


The truism that corruption is a route which hinders development in any society is one that requires no contention. According to Nigerian sociologist, OniguOtite, “corruption is the perversion of public affair for private advantage”. Nevertheless, the utility of corruptionboth as a concept and as a phenomenon is one which continues to be in contest as it is believed to take various shapes and forms.[1] This is consequent upon the realityof diverse geo-political zones.Hence, corruption is a global phenomenon. The result of this is the rise of numerous definitions from different persons.  However, the universal agreement to this factor has being that it is one which seeks to satisfy self-pecuniary or selfish interest either directly or indirectly.[2]Although it is evident that corruption is existent in almost every country, its incidence is on the increase in underdeveloped & developing countries, Nigeria inclusive. It spurs sadness that this phenomenon has not only held the country captive,but it has also ensured that the judiciary is one of its numerous sectoral victims. This is evident in the illustration below.



When justice can be bought, its essence becomes worthless. It is a key feature of fairness that equality before the law should not be on the basis of the highest bidder, as though it were an auction. A living principle this has for long being and it has withstood the test of time through its implementation by a designated institution – the judiciary – and its continuous scrutiny in line with the law. A well-functioningjustice system is crucial in tackling corruption efficiently, however, when officers of the judiciary bend the law in favor of corrupt practices, public trust in the institution is eroded. This is not meant to be, but sadly, it is the reality in Nigeria. Corruption or at the minimum, a perception of it in the judiciary not only destroys the trust in its system, it further crushes all other core judicial functions such as Dispute resolution,and the protection of contractual rights.

To this end, the increasing realization of the overwhelming ill effects of corruption on the nation’s political, social and economic fabric is felt. The anti-corruption efforts put up by the federal government in a bid tackle its prevalence has proved abortive, hence the large-scale corruption cases, accusations and counter accusations. As a result, instances of missing funds such as the missing $20 billion naira in oil revenue in 2013[3], contract scam, bribery, extortion, police pension scam, illegal allotment of government lands amid others no longer create shock to the public as it has become common placed. In view of the aforesaid, it is imperative to undertake a review of the causes of this menace. This attempt is hinge on the fact that for every challenge or problem, a cause must exist.

  1. INADEQUACY OF THE NJC: it is no doubt that the National Judicial Council has severally failed in fulfilling its obligations of screening competent judges. This is a result of the fact that the officials in this position are themselves corrupt. For instance, Danladi Umar, the judge in charge of handling corruption cases against public officials in Nigeria was accused by the EFCC of having demanded 10 million naira from a suspect in a pending case in 2018. As broadcast by the BBC on 21st November 2016, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the supreme court of Nigeria was also charged with corruption on a 15-count charge.[4]
  2. LOW RENUMERATION OR POOR REWARDING SYSTEM: the reward system in Nigeria is perhaps the poorest in the world. As at June 2015, some states in the federation owed judges about 2-6 months salaries, while expecting these judges to be honest in their delivery of justice. Judges are human, and being human comes with needs. In order to cater for these desires, they resort to the collection of bribes. In 2019, a survey by the National Bureau of Statistics showed a 53%-62% increase in the number of persons who have once paid bribe to a judicial officer[5]. This goes to show the flaw in the renumeration system.
  3. PREVALENCE OF BRIBERY & GREED: the average Nigerian is perceived as greedy and bribery has become a pass to getting things done quickly. This is also the case in the judiciary. Statistics by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) show that when confronted with a bribe, only 1 out of 5 Nigerians decline. As reported by Punch in 2017, a Judge was charged by the EFCC for collecting bribe totaling 90 million naira from 100 lawyers.[6] While Justice Mohammed Tsamiya of the Appellate court was arrested for demanding 200 million naira in exchange for a favorable judgment in a National assembly election case.[7]
  4. BUREAUCRATIC INFLUENCES: Power, wealth and influence are united factors that drive the rich. Hence, big personalities and businesses tend to pay and spend large sums in order to facilitate speedy processing of their applications. This also comes in the quest to bend judgements in their favor.
  5. LACK OF JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE: in Nigeria, the rule of law is always sacrificed on the alter of corruption. This is because the judiciary lacks independence with the constant interference by other arms of government.

The undesirable effect of the causes of corruption currently impacting heavily on the human right of the citizenry is the resultant decay of justice on a large scale. Regardless of this, this essay suggests that there is a way.


1.The NJC needs to introduce an equitable wage and incentive system so as to improve the quality of life of these judges. The low level of income is one which influence judges to set aside their integrity. Where the NJC can reform the renumeration of judges, there would be a fall in the rate judicial corruption.[8]

  1. The independence of the judiciary must be preserved at all point. This will ensure that the rule of law is not tampered with.[9]
  2. There is a burning need to go beyond the mere pronouncement of anti-corruption policies, to the actual implementation of these policies. The implication of this is that investigation processes and the war against corruption must go in tandem with the current realities. Most judges feel they can escape the long hands of the law. This implementation would curb the excessive abuse of power and privileges.
  3. Acts which establish these constitutional institutions such as the Code of conduct Bureau, Code of Conduct Tribunal amidst others, require amendments so as to make their existence relevant and proactive.
  4. The essence of a synergy between thegovernment and the judiciary cannot be over-emphasized. This collaboration would ensure the rise of a complex interrelated institutional remedy which would in turnbring under control the ravage and destruction wrought by corruption
  5. The need for the NJC to stiffen up the moral regeneration of incumbent Judges as well as making it a requirement for appointment is more than necessary. This would bring about a re-orientation on the need to uphold justice at all cost.[10]


Corruption is endemic in the Nigerian judicial system.[11] This reality has not only compromised, but also jeopardized the administration of justice. Will the foundation of the rule of law continue to be shaken by the brawns of corruption? Fairness, integrity and discipline are the watchword of the judicial arm; although it would be blatant falsity to say that corruption would be completely eradicated one day – this is impossible – but it is no doubt that with the appropriate systems in place, it can be greatly reduced. It is on this ground that the rule of law, and thesustenance of true justice will forever prevail.

Source : Bridget Edokwe June 21st 2020

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