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« Gen. Yakubu Gowon in Conversation with Pini Jason, Part I | Main | The King and his Mighty Libido »

October 17, 2005

Ozodi Osuji Lectures #13: the Judiciary in Nigeria's Politics

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji (Seatle, Washington) --- Parliaments make laws. Presidents execute them. Some one must adjudicate them. Someone must be an impartial umpire that settles disputes between citizens (civil laws) and between citizens and their government (criminal laws).

We have laws because we have conflicts and laws are designed to enable us solve those conflicts. Therefore, there must be some one that interprets and applies the law when conflicts arise. The social institution that interprets and applies the law is the judiciary.

Let us trace the origin of the judiciary in Nigeria. Nigeria is composed of many ethnic groups. Before their encounter with the British, each of these ethnic groups had its own laws. However, these were not the origin of the judiciary in Nigeria as we now know it. Contemporary Nigerian judiciary was essentially imported from Britain, so we have to understand that institution in Britain for us to understand what there is of it in Nigeria.

British jurisprudence is complex and has roots in the various peoples that settled in England. In 27 BC, the Romans conquered what they subsequently called Britannia and ruled it for four hundred and fifty years before the barbarian uprising led them to pull out of Britain around 450 AD. While in Britannia, apparently, the Romans instituted their judicial practices. The native Celtic Britons were Latinized by the time the Romans left Britain.

When the Romans left, the very barbarians (Germans) that the Romans went to fight in Rome itself crossed the English Channel and invaded England. A bunch of Germans from Saxony and Angel land (Germany) crossed the channel and settled in England (hence the name Anglo Saxon, German tribes). The Celts of Britannia were conquered by the Germans and the Island was taken over by the Germans.

The Anglo Saxons ruled England until the Vikings, Scandinavians, another Germanic tribe, began menacing the Island, beginning in the eight century. The Scandinavians settled in many parts of England.

In 1066, the Norman French, themselves Scandinavians who had settled in northern France, Normandy, conquered England and took the island over. William, Duke of Normandy, became the King of England and his lieutenants became the dukes, earls, counts and marquis of England. The French nobility spread through out England and ruled it. In fact, they imposed their French language on the people.

Over time, French language mixed with the mix already in England to produce the language that we now call English. English language is a Creole language, a language formed from the mixture of many peoples: Celts, Romans, Germans, Scandinavians and French.

In the meantime, the Norman kings in London imposed French law on England. They appointed judges to go from one part of England to others hearing cases and settling them. Initially, local squares, the French nobility on the scene, heard cases and made rulings. However, the persons involved may appeal their Lords’ rulings. If they did, they had to wait for a judge to ride his circuit, (literally on a horse) and come by and hear their appeals. This is the origin of circuit courts or courts of appeal in the English world.

For our present purposes, the locals tried to interpret the law as they saw fit until the circuit judge came around and finally settled the matters. The circuit judges, French men, mostly deferred to the locals and respected their understanding of the law as it applied in their shires/counties. (Shires…from which we have sheriff, the police officer who enforced the law in the shire, the county.)

The judges made decisions and when they came back in the future referred to the decisions they had made in the past and or the decisions made by other judges. This is how the English legal system, called Common Law, grew up. Laws were not necessarily written down; England still does not have a written constitution, but is the accumulation of decisions made by judges and the Acts of Parliament.

A judge in England, a common law country, hears a case and tries to see how other judges ruled on it in the past, this is called Precedence, and takes into consideration Parliamentary Acts relating to the case. He rules on the bases of his understanding of precedence and statutory law.

The Common law countries, which include Britain’s former empire: USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa and African countries ruled by Britain, have a different legal system than continental Europeans. The continental Europeans were more rigidly ruled by Rome and had a more lasting Roman influence on them. Their legal system tends to be part of the Romano legal system. Rome tended to have written and codified laws. Thus, Europeans tend to formalize and codify their laws. Moreover, when Napoleon went conquering most of Europe he wrote a legal code and imposed it on wherever he conquered. Thus, in much of continental Europe, the law tends to be codified and adhered to as it is written.

In continental Europe, judges tend to be, more or less, bureaucrats applying the law as written and not interpreting it. For example, a jury hears a case and finds the defendant guilty or not. If guilty, the judge looks up the law and applies it impartially and impersonally, as written. The judge does not have a lee way to decide to send the accused to prison or not, how long, and or release him and or place him on probation.

Britain has county/shire courts. These courts of first instance hear evidence and make judgments. If the case is a criminal case, the crown counsel represents society and the criminal is represented by his own lawyer. A jury of twelve or so men and women hears the case and decides whether the accused is guilty or not. If guilty, the judge decides sentence. As noted, in common law countries, the judge has a lot of leeway how long to sentence the guilty to jail. The loser can appeal his case to a higher court. The circuit court hears appeals and if the loser still loses he may appeal his case to still a higher court in London. If he loses, he may appeal his case to the highest court in the land, Parliament. The Privy Council, a judicial committee of the House of Lords, is the highest court in the land; its ruling is final.

In America’s legal system, a judge makes the decision on how to punish a guilty person. Generally, he follows sentencing guidelines laid down by the state and reads the pre-sentence investigation reports written for him by his legal and psychological staff. In the end, the judge may decide to let the guilty go without serving jail time, or send him on probation, or sentence him to the amount of time in jail he deems appropriate etc.

Thus, it came to pass that for stealing the same amount of money, a person could get five years in jail, or only probation time, depending on the judge’s disposition.

As you would imagine, a black man found guilty of criminal offences tends to be thrown into the slammer, to go cool his heels in the Big House and do so for as long as the law permits, whereas a white man is likely to be given the least amount of jail time in the Big House, if not placed on probation or even not punished. Indeed, if the white person is jailed, the chances are that he would earn parole quicker than a black man.

The judge decides whether the accused is a threat to the community or not, and whether he is remorseful for his crime, likely to re-offend or not. On the basis of his judgment, he sentences or releases the accused.

People tend to see those who are like them as good and those unlike them as bad. Since most American judges are white, they tend to see white folks as good and black folks as bad.

In America, there are two justice systems, one for blacks and the other for whites. This is not the way it is supposed to be, for on paper, justice is supposed to be blind. But in reality, we all know that the chances of one doing time in jail has a lot to do with ones race and gender. This is the American reality, ugly but that is what it is.

In America of today, one out of every four inner city black males between the ages of 14-24 is either in jail or is under the supervision of parole and probation officers.

Please note that if one is a felon or ex-felon that ones citizens rights, such as voting or being voted for, is taken away. Thus, America uses the legal system to remove many blacks from participating in politics. The number of black Americans who can vote and or be voted for is very small. As I write, 2 million Americans, mostly black persons, are incarcerated in America. This is nothing short of war on the black race. The man is using his criminal justice system to decimate blacks from politics.

America is a house of injustice and will self destruct, implode. It cannot go on and on being unjust for much longer.

There are many types of law: common law, codified law, and within those two broad categories are many forms of law: criminal law (where the state is the party prosecuting the accused, alleged to have committed a crime against the community by committing a crime against one person) civil law (where it is a suit brought by one citizen against another and the state, judge, merely acts as an impartial arbiter of the truth and the defendant and plaintiff agree to abide by his ruling). Within the broad category of civil law itself there are many varieties of it, such as torts, contracts, family law, etc. There are other forms of law such as admiralty or marine law (pertaining to the oceans), administrative law (that interprets regulations made by administrative agencies of government), statutory law (law made by parliaments), ordinances (law made by city councils), corporate law (law regarding corporations, artificial persons) and so on.

Britain brought her common law system to Nigeria. She gave Nigeria her legal tradition, as she gave it to America. In this legal tradition legal system, the courts tend to have three tiers. In the USA, there is the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land whose decisions are final, unless overruled by Congress and or constitutional amendment. There are appellate courts and district courts.

The Supreme Court, under its first chief justice, John Marshal, in the Madison versus Marbury, 1803 ruling, gave itself the right of Judicial Review, the right to examine what the other branches of government did and rule whether they were legal or not. Thus, it came to pass that if a law is passed by Congress; those who do not like it, immediately go to the nearest federal district court and challenge it. The law would not be implemented until the challenge of it goes from the district court to the appellate court and reaches the Supreme Court. This process may take years before the Supreme Court finally rules on the constitutionality of the said law, thus frustrating the law made by the people’s representative in Congress.

More importantly, the Supreme Court may rule against the law, that is, overrule Congress. This way, the Supreme Court is acting as a legislative institution, what the framers of the constitution never intended for it to do. Article one of the constitution specifically stated that only Congress shall make laws. But, as noted, John Marshal gave the Court the right of judicial review and President Thomas Jefferson’s failure to challenge him on constitutional grounds has made that right part of the legal custom of America.

Today, America’s law is dependent on the whims of unelected nine white persons on the Supreme Court. If the court comprises of judicial activists who are of the left or right they rule as such. Seldom do we have judges who are strict constructionist of the law. Why should judges be strict constructionists of the law, after all the very first chief justice did not construct the constitution in a strict manner?

Other chief justices left their own unjust marks on the court. Chief Justice John Taney ruled in the Dared Scott case, where a run away slave was brought to court and the question was whether he should be returned from the non-slavery state he had ran to, to the slave state he ran from. Taney uttered the most infamous statement a human being could. He said, and I quote: “no black man has rights that a white man ought to respect” hence returned Dred Scott to slavery.

That no black man has rights that whites ought to respect remain the legal tradition in America. White judges do not believe that black men have rights that America should respect. This stupidity has built the foundation for America’s eventual collapse, for though the universe seems amoral it is actually a moral universe. The evils we do eventually come to hunt us. America must pay a heavy price for her abuse of African Americas.

In 1896, the Supreme Court literally instituted Jim Crow laws and ended desegregation which the fourteenth amendment that ended slavery had brought about. The Court ruled that separate is legal in America. Thus, the races were separated in America: separate buses, separate housing, separate areas of living, separate bathrooms, separate sitting places in public transportation, separate schools, separate eating places at restaurants.

It was only in 1954 that the Earl Warren (a republican) Supreme Court ruled that separate is inherently unequal. That ruling ended segregation in America?

After that ruling, it took several demonstrations in American cities, with the likes of Bull Connor setting police dogs loose on black demonstrators, for America to start integrating its society. To the present, if you are black and have a case and the judge is a white man, you might as well not expect justice. A white judge is likely to rule against a black man, even if he is right. These pompous white judges, in fact, make up their minds to find blacks guilty from merely seeing their black faces in court. Moreover, they figure that blacks are too poor to have good counsel representation and, as such, that no one would know if justice was miscarried or not.

America sits on mass injustice while pretending to be just. If you are afar from America all you see is the glitz, the razzmatazz presented to the world to see and see America as a just place. But come close and you see a rotten house.

Britain, believe it or not, tends to have a color blind justice system. John Bull is fair and square. If you commit a crime in Britain, the chances are that the judge will be impartial in treating you, black or white. I will take my chances with a British judge than with an American, any time.

For our present purposes, there are three tiers of courts in the land. We have talked about the Supreme Court. Beneath it is the Circuit, also called Appellate Courts. These are usually composed of three judges collectively hearing the same case. They hear appeals from Federal District courts.

In America, each state has, at least, one federal district court (as you could imagine, a large state like California has many district courts, whereas a small state like Alaska has only one).

A group of states constitute an appellate court area, a circuit court. Folks in that area appeal their cases to it.

Cases begin at the District Court, then are appealed to the circuit court and finally at the Supreme court.

The president nominates all federal judges, with the recommendation of the senior senator of the state where the judges are to serve. The Senate approves the judges.

The three tier judicial system at the federal level is replicated at the state level. Each state has a Supreme Court, its highest court interpreting state laws, an appeals court, there could be more than one, depending on the size of the state, and county courts (also called Superior Courts). Cases originate at the county Superior Court and are appealed all the way to the state Supreme Court.

In addition to the three tier courts are town magistrate courts. These deal with minor issues not requiring possible imposition of jail time, such as traffic tickets.

In America, each county has its own jail. Jails can hold inmates for up to one year. Each state has its prison(s). Prisons can hold inmates for life. The Federal Court System has its own prisons.

As noted, America has over 2 million persons in jails and prisons. America has the largest percentage of her people in jail/prisons of all countries in the world. As also noted, most of the inmates are African-Americans and these days, the other threatening minority, Latinos.

Jails are essentially political instruments with which the white ruling class removes unruly minority persons from society. That is, jails are mainly political instruments for controlling those who challenge the white power structure. Most blacks in jail are, in a sense, political prisoners. Minority persons know this fact and do not necessarily feel stigmatized from going to jail. In fact, going to jail is often seen as a badge of honor for these folks. It means that one has challenged “the man”, hence is a man and not an Uncle Tom doing what the man wants him to do; one is not a house or field nigger, but ones own man..

In America, it costs upwards of $35, 000 dollars a year to keep a person in prison. Annually, America spends less than $6,000 dollars on each of its students. That is, it spends more money to house Americans in jail than to train them for productive work. This is one of those penny wise pound foolish policies that only happen in America.

As James Brown, the rhythm and blues singer croons: it is only in America that the unreal seem real. No matter. These racist policies will come to hunt America. A white police officer stops a black motorist and if no one is looking will beat him into unconscious state and claim to have done nothing. See what they did to Mr. Robert Davis, only a few days ago in New Orleans. They would commit crimes and write false reports regarding how the black person is the one that attacked them. American police men seem singularly sociopathic and nothing they ever say regarding black men is true.

(If I may personalize, when I was a graduate student at UCLA, one day, while walking on campus, I saw a police car stop and two white police officers jumped out and literally pushed me to the ground. In seconds, they treated me as I had not imagined human beings could treat one another. I asked what I had done and I was told to shut up. Eventually, I was bundled into the policy cruiser, car and taken to an apparent crime scene and released. I learned that what happened was that a bank clerk had reported that a young black male, about my age, 25, had behaved inappropriately in a Westwood bank. The man is supposed to be about 6 foot, four inches tall. The call went out to the police. The campus police saw me walking on campus and mistook me for the man. I was only five feet, eight inches tall, and how on earth any one could take me for s six foot four inches man is a wonder that can only happen in America.

Being who I was, I wanted the case investigated and wrote a citizen report against the said police officers. I was given their own report to read. Every thing they wrote was a lie. They said that I fit the suspect. That I was six foot four inches tall (how I wish) and that I looked suspicious etc. There you have it. The cops lie through their teeth and get away with it. But being me, I was outraged and challenged everything they wrote and insisted that they be punished for telling lies. The case lingered and somewhere along the line, a few of the black faculty on campus had a meeting with me. They asked me to let the matter drop. Why, I asked, and one said that if I insisted and got the two obviously white trash police officers in trouble, that they would come after me. How? That someone would just find my body riddled with bullets, dead. As they saw it, most white police officers have antisocial personalities. Apparently, it takes a criminal to catch other criminals. My counselors said that typical white police officers are from the poor class and that the best they could do in America is work as police officers or fire officers and that any one who deprives them of those jobs returns them to poverty and that they might not like it. No matter, I do not fear death; in fact, I say bring it on, now. Anyway, the case was eventually settled when the said officers wrote me a letter of apology.)

Let us see how Nigeria’s judicial system works. The British bequeathed its legal system to Nigeria. The legal system that operates in Nigeria is the British Common law tradition. However, during the colonial era, some British social scientists, anthropologists mainly, studied the various Nigerian tribes and their laws and recommended that their legal traditions be incorporated into the British system superimposed on Nigeria.

The British set up Local Authorizes in the various ethnic areas. The judge in these Local Authorities tried to take into consideration local traditions in his ruling.

Often the judge was also the administrative office of the district (District Officer or County Officer).

The local authority courts had local authority police, court messengers, they were called. The Igbos called them Kotima (which is still what some Igbos call police men or, alternatively, “Ndi uwu ojie” men in black, for police men wore black uniforms in the then Nigeria.)

For all intents and purposes, though efforts have been made to incorporate some Nigerian legal traditions into extant Nigerian law, Nigeria’s law is still of the British variety. Many of the top Nigerian lawyers and judges were trained and called to the bar in Britain.

Recently, I looked at the curriculum of a Nigerian law school and it is not that much different from what obtains at American law schools. Students in Nigeria study criminal law, constitutional law, torts, contracts, corporate law, and family law and so on and so forth. The point then is that if you understand law as it is in Britain and America, you probably understand law in Nigeria.

The legal structure in Nigeria, on paper, is like what obtains in Britain and USA. At the federal level, there is a federal Supreme Court, Appellate Courts and District Courts.

At the state level, each of the states has similar courts. The counties, that is, the local government area, have the courts of first instance where original evidence is taken and evaluated and decisions, guilty or not, made. The larger cities have magistrate courts.

Appointments to these courts are in the same manner as in America. (I personally think that the American system of appointing judges stinks. I prefer the German system. In Germany, lawyers take examinations to become judges and those that pass in an outstanding manner are interviewed and hired by the ministry of justice. They work for the state; often in several different capacities before they are deemed qualified to become judges. When a judgeship is available, one of these lawyer civil servants is promoted by the ministry to it. He then works his way up the legal ladder until he gets to the highest court in the land. This way, judges tend to be well qualified. In America, George Bush appoints a woman who has not written a legal opinion in her life to the Supreme Court. At the state level, many of the judges are appointed by governors because they contributed to the governors’ election or for other reasons other than judicial experience. Thus, many judges tend to be political hacks working in cahoots with the political system. It would be nice to separate judges from politics and make them totally professional, as in Germany.)

Nigerian Judges tend to be well qualified and are as good as any anywhere in the world. As elsewhere in the British common law tradition, they are supposed to hear cases and apply the law. If the case is a criminal case there is supposed to be a jury of ones peers judging the accused. The jury of twelve men and women hear the case and decide guilt or innocence. The judge then applies the law, following certain procedural guidelines,

What makes judges’ ruling legal is their following proper procedures. Law must follow the rules laid down for it to be legal. A judge must have the qualification to hear the case before him or else he is incompetent to hear it. If a judge has vested interest in a case and cannot be impartial, he is supposed to excuse himself from the case. The judge must not take sides in a case. He must carefully listen to both sides in a dispute and to the best of his knowledge, may God help him, decide guilt or innocence and apply the law properly. He must follow the rules of evidence and go to where they take him. He is supposed only to accept facts, not his personal opinions, into consideration in his ruling. It does not matter whether he likes the law for not, he must rule as the law requires him to rule.

Consider the latest craziness in America, the three strikes and you are out law. If you repeat offenses and have been convicted three times, you are sent to jail for life (which is usually 25 years before parole hearing are held). If a teenager stole a pack of cigarette three times that puts him away in prison for life. But a George Bush sends American kids to go die in Iraq, just so he proves to his father that he has balls that he is not a wimp, that he completed what his old man started, and he is not sent to jail. Where is justice in all these? A murderer walks the streets a free man and a black boy who was foolish enough to steal three packets of cigarettes spends the rest of his life in prison. This is absurd and many judges know it. Nevertheless, the law is the law and they must sentence the confused brother to life in prison. Send the boy to the big house and go drink the spirits to cheer your spirit up. A majority of American judges are drunks. That is the only way that they can tolerate the injustice they dish out to minority persons in America.

Nigerian judges tend to be as well educated as any other judge in the world. In fact, in comparison to American judges, they tend to be very erudite. Go read the decisions and legal opinions of Nigerian judges and see good thinking at work.

All this notwithstanding, the bane of Nigeria comes into play. Corruption is the main issue in Nigeria’s politics. Judges, like every one else in Nigeria, are corrupt. To start with, judges have to bribe some one to be appointed judges. Having become judges, they have to recoup their investments. Thus, they take bribes. If you have a case before a Nigerian judge, you do what you are expected to do. You do not approach him directly, of course. You talk to, say, the court messenger, whose real job is to collect bribes for the judge. You talk to whomever you have to talk to and you are told what you have to do for a favorable hearing of your case.

I once witnessed this practice at work. A cousin, an auto mechanic, was involved in a car accident. It was not his fault. That is not the point. He was arrested any way and after several bribes the police released him from custody. The case was taken to the court at Owerri. Here, the game begins. Through intermediaries, an amount was negotiated and the judge gets his “kola”. Then the bloated judged ruled in his favor.

What is self evident is that judges in Nigeria, from the local government area court to the higher court in the land, the Supreme Court, take bribes. Recently, Obasanjo has been making noises about anti corruption. The Chief Justice of the federation, Owais, has been accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes. Mr. Owais is currently under investigation. The investigation may last indefinitely.

If you make sufficient noises, the powers that be in Nigeria will humor you and initiate some fruitless investigation of your allegation. But nobody investigated is ever jailed. Obasanjo’s so-called anti corruption war investigates several persons but, so far, no big cheese has been jailed.

The former Inspector general of the Nigerian police, Mr. Balogun, who was caught red handed with billions of police cash redirected to his personal bank account, as we write, is still not judged guilty and jailed, as he should be. Mr. Balogun’s lawyers play the Nigerian game and who knows, the man may walk away free. He is in Nigeria after all.

It takes the English Bobby to arrest the governor of Bayelsa State for money laundering in London.

All the governors, repeat all of them, redirect money they got from the federal revenue sharing to their personal bank accounts, but what is happening to them? There is an immunity clause in the 1999 constitution that prevents hauling governors and the president to court. Okay. Amend the constitution, now, and remove that nonsense. Send all the bastards to the slammer where they belong. Chop off their heads. What are we waiting for? For the white man to come put our house in order for us?

Are we waiting for most Nigerian professionals to run out of the country and go to America? One of America’s strengths is the ability to attract the best and brightest from all over the world. Home grown Americans are usually too lazy to amount to much, so America attracts the smartest from other countries. Most of the best scientists at America’s universities came from Germany and other European countries, and now that Asians have gone from being mere copycats, from merely being good at technical matters to doing original research, America has scoped down on Asia, attracting their best to American universities.

Go to a typical American university, particularly to the science departments, and you would think that you are in Beijing, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Bombay, Soul, and Taipei. Asians are now mostly the science students and teachers at America’s top twenty five universities. Not long ago, I went to my Alma matter, University of California, and could not believe where I was: it was like I was in Asia.

America opens her doors to the best and brightest from all over the world. Nigerians with good education, particularly in the sciences and engineering, are joining this mix. Just about every Nigerian with technical degree, engineering and medicine, can come to America and obtain a fairly good job.

In America, a typical engineer makes about $50, 0000 a year; a typical medical doctor makes at least $100,000 a year. In Nigeria, they would make about $10, 000 a year. So what do you think? Being self centered animals, these folks obtain a visiting visa and come to America, obtain jobs and stay there.

If you studied the social sciences, however, don’t even bother coming to America, for America cannot even provide jobs for its own social scientists. PhDs in sociology drive cabs in New York. America buys technicians not intellectuals.

Corruption is the lay of the land in Nigeria. That notwithstanding when I talk to Nigerian lawyers and judges I tend to find them second to none in the world. It is too bad that our political leadership does not create a corruption free environment for Nigerians to show the world who they are. Nigerians, in fact, are some of the world’s smartest persons. We have had only one hundred years of experience with the West, yet some of us are knowledgeable about Western ways. Indeed, some of us can compete on equal terms with the best of the best, the cream de la cream in the West.

Improve Nigeria and no country in the world would out-compete her. We have heard so much about how well Asians are doing; improve Nigeria and Nigerians will not be second to Asians or any one else in the world.

In papers on the judiciary, it is customary to review some salient cases. Who can write a paper on the American judiciary without reviewing civil rights cases, abortion cases, privacy cases, pornography cases (free speech) and so on? I could do that in the context of Nigeria but nothing would be gained from so doing. I would not be elucidating a serious legal principle.

In Nigeria, in so far that there are controversial cases that seem worthy of review, they have to do with the constitutional immunity for governors. But then again that constitution itself is, strictly speaking, illegal. It was not written by the people.

A constitution is supposed to be written by the people and or their representatives to represent their wishes as to how they want to play the political game. The Nigerian 1999 constitution was written by only God knows whom. Some one wrote it for General Abdul Salami, for obviously the soldier boy does not have the legal skills to write that, admittedly fine piece of work.

The 1999 constitution, on paper, is good. The point is who wrote it and who authorized him to do so? Only the people can write their own rules of the game and, in as much, as Nigerians did not write their so-called current constitution, it is not legal.

That means that the current government in the country is illegitimate. That is one reason to scoop the garbage to the garbage dump.

Nigerian lawyers seem to be up to the task and are giving the courts an opportunity to earn some of their living. The various democracy groups seek every opportunity to sue this or that person, even government agencies, challenging the legality of what they are doing. Recently, our president had his cronies raise money from those doing business in Nigeria. As it were, he stiffed them, hit them up for contributions or else they would not obtain contracts from his government. He raised billions of naira to build his Presidential library. He is now building that library in his home town. The man couldn’t even wait until he does what American presidents do. American presidents end their tenure in office before they build their monuments to their vanities. They do so to avoid conflict of interests, as they raise funds for their final memento to human pride and vanity.

Our man Obasanjo has no real polices that would make his name last in Nigerian history. Would a library, that if we know any thing about Nigerians, would decay a few years after it is built, make his name last in Nigerian history? Of course not. As soon as the bugger is out of office, his successors would erase his name from everything he ever touched with his grubby fingers. The library would become dilapidated and decay in a few years, the books, rot. Apparently, the big boy does not even understand the Nigeria he pretends to rule.

It would have served the man better if he did something salient, so that future generations would remember him for it. He could, for example, restructure Nigeria into twenty states, each composed of a major ethnic group. He could make the country’s legislature unicameral; we do not need bicameral legislatures. He could make the country a parliamentary system, so that the prime minister has to debate facts and know what he is doing, rather than be running around the world leaving other people doing his job for him.

Obasanjo’s comes to America and hires a third rate woman who works for the World Bank, and makes her his finance minister. Worse, he pays her almost a quarter million dollars annually, in American dollars, too. The average Nigerian makes a dollar a day, so why pay a woman with no contribution to economic theory and practice that much money? Only in Nigeria do such things happen.

The Nigerian judiciary is in shambles, but not as bad as it could be, all things considered. With a bit of thought, it could be made one of the best in the world.


The Current Nigerian judiciary is a mix of the Anglo Saxon common law and a mesh marsh of local Nigerian legal systems. If you understand how law is practiced in Britain and the USA, you pretty much understand how it is supposed to be practiced in Nigeria.

But like every thing else in Nigeria, the evil of corruption affects the judiciary in Nigeria. Nevertheless, one gives high marks to the judiciary in Nigeria.

With a little effort, the Nigerian judiciary could be as good as the best in the world. In fact, many Nigerian judges have been deemed outstanding enough to be hired by the World Court at The Hague.

Ozodi Thomas Osuji

October 17, 2005

The next lecture, #14, is on state and local governments in Nigeria, October 18

Posted by Administrator at October 17, 2005 12:44 PM


As always I wish to thank Dr.Osuji for using this
ability of his of simplifying complex things so a lot more people can be educated. I believe part of it comes from knowing his subject thoroughly well. Many of us here share the anger you have at the position Nigeria occupies in the world-six feet under. Anyone of us who had secondary school education in Igboland in the sixties and early seventies, worked hard at school and secured a good grade in W.A.S.C and came here to continue one's education would agree something has gone terribly wrong in Nigeria. All those very bright kids we know of in our classes that secured the best aggregates in W.A.S.C and so established the fact that fundamentally they have what it takes, with further education and experience, at this time, if things had been done right would have been powering the country. Instead pervasive corruption has ruined everything. Part of the solution is not lining people against the wall and off with their heads but truely looking at our culture. Africans wrote the book on Extended family system as opposed to the Nuclear system practised here. Without active reform or just leaving time to do the reform of this particular aspect of our culture, Extended family system gets hi-jacked not just by the people at the top but by any who is the bread winner of the family and all others who depend one level or the other on that person. I sometines ask myself what would happen if Extended family system as it is practised in our native home gets imposed on the American system for one year. Forget WMD. In the new Igboland, the impediments and benefits of extended family system must be recognized and addressed to help grow a middle class that can invest in the land instead of feeding the way of life of our fore fathers.

Posted by: cnuddoh at October 19, 2005 05:19 PM

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