The Fight Against Corruption in the Judiciary (FIACIJ) has rolled out a “2 weeks campaign tagged “STOP GIVING BRIBES CAMPAIGN” across the Nation.
In this chart with DNL Legal and Style, the convener of FIACIJ, Mr. Bayo Akinlade, responds to questions on the campaign and the whole anti bribery drive.
DNL L&S: Tell us what this Campaign is all about
Mr. Akinlade: This Campaign is about taking ACTION. Lawyers and litigants across the nation have complained enough, there are all sorts of reasons lawyers give for offering bribes to court staff/ officials but we discovered that most of these reasons are cultural and sometimes baseless. So this campaign is to see whether or not lawyers are serious about eradicating corruption or just paying lip service to the idea.
We want lawyers and litigants everywhere to stop giving or offering bribes in our courts, to resist every form of extortive behaviour by court staff, insist on prompt and efficient services and finally to report to us or to the heads of court i.e the Chief Registrar or any Chief Magistrate or Judge in the Judicial Division where the act takes place
DNL L&S: Why is this campaign only for two weeks? Should lawyers and litigants continue to give bribes after these two weeks?
Mr. Akinlade: Certainly not; we expect that within these two weeks, lawyers and litigants will realize that they actually have the power to end corruption in the Judiciary. Just picture every court user refusing to be intimidated by a court staff, refusing to give a bribe, will the court officials then not still do their work? The excuse has been that “if we do not give them bribes, they will refuse to do our work” so let us see if that statement is really true.
The main reason for putting a time frame for the campaign is so that we can collate information on the incidences of corruption in our courts, we can understand from the information we gather who causes it or who triggers it and how we can develop policies and strategies to combat it. The information we received will be shared with the leaders of NBA Branches, the NBA national body, the Chief Judges of the States concerned, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, ICPC, EFCC and other relevant stakeholders
DNL L&S: The Campaign seems focused on Lawyers and Litigants, what about the Court officials themselves are they not part of the Campaign?
Mr. Akinlade: Yes; our campaign is focused on lawyers and litigants and the reason is simple. During the course of our interaction with the Chief Judge of Lagos State, her lordship noted that systems have been put in place in the Lagos State Judiciary to combat corrupt practices one of which is the oath of secrecy judicial staff swore to in January 2018 which binds the judicial staff to certain standards of behaviour, another is that the measures for discipline and/or sacking corrupt judicial staff have been fast tracked.
Haven put these mechanisms in place; Her lordship then called on the NBA and litigants to play their part by not corrupting the Judiciary through offering bribes or saying “THANK YOU”. Her lordship noted that the word “THANK YOU” had been bastardized hence the Chief Judge of Lagos State called on the general public to stop saying “THANK YOU” to Judicial staff but rather demand prompt, effective and professional services. This is not to say that we should be rude or to force our way with the judicial staff. We understand that there may be delays caused by circumstances beyond our control but as long as we offer no monetary reward and obtain valid receipts for every transaction our business in our courts should be done without resort to bribery. We therefore came up with this campaign as our own way of saying that we are ready to rid our courts of corrupt elements and vices that erode the fabric of our communal existence.
DNL L&S: What kind of support are you getting from the public or NBA for this Campaign?
Mr. Akinlade: We have written letters to the Chairmen of the 5 Branches of the NBA in Lagos State so that they can inform their members about this campaign which begins on the 5th of February and ends on the 16th of February 2018. We are hoping for their full cooperation and the cooperation of their members. We have contacted ICPC and we have also sent out notification to our Partners; NBA Lawyers in the Media and used the full advantage of social media to make this campaign work. We do not however have any formal or official financial support from any organization or individual hence we rely on the cooperation of our colleagues in the NBA and Court users in general.
DNL L&S: How does someone get involved in supporting this campaign?
Mr. Akinlade: You can call us and we can tell you more about how to be active with what we are doing. For this campaign you can volunteer some of your time to move around the courts in Lagos State (there are about 25 court locations in Lagos State). You can assist us by enabling others to do so for us as well.
All you have to do is observe, go to the Court registry, watch how lawyers and litigants conduct their affairs with court officials, go to the Sherriff department, the probate etc. if a bribe is requested from you in the course of doing your own personal business in the court or you see any signs of extortion taking place and/or you see someone trying to offer a bribe just send us an sms or watsapp message describing the event. You can also make a video or audio recording of the event if you are able to. You can assist the campaign also by being our watchdog in the court you go to during this period. We would like to note here that anyone desiring to work with us should please contact us ahead of time so that we can tell you how to go about this without disturbing the business of the Court.
DNL L&S: It seems this is a campaign taking place only in Lagos State, why is that?
Mr. Akinlade: Yes, we are starting this campaign in Lagos State but our members across the country have been encouraged to run this campaign simultaneously across the nation. The reason why this campaign is more prominent in Lagos is because we have the full support of the Chief Judge of Lagos State to go round the courts to ensure compliance with certain protocols that her lordship has put in place to eradicate corruption in the Lagos State Judiciary.
DNL L&S: How can people reach FIACIJ if they have a report, questions or a complaint?
Mr. Akinlade: For now you can reach us via Watsapp on 08065172866, Sms 09054832930 and on facebook at www.facebook.com/fiacij