The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has bemoaned the sordid state of the nation’s judiciary, describing it as an international embarrassment requiring an urgent redress.
Onaiyekan, who was in Ilorin presiding over a retreat for the priests of the church on the invitation of the Catholic Bishop of Kwara Diocese, Bishop Ayo Maria Atoyebi, said the public claims of the corruption allegations against some of the Nigerian justices has devalued the integrity of the nation and her people.
He canvassed a reformatory approach from justices with integrity and reputation to insist on public trial of the concerned justices alleged of corruption, rather than leaving same as the exclusive duties of the National Judicial Council (NJC).
The eminent Catholic leader said: “The allegation of corruption against some of our judges and justices is terrible, it is not good for the country. If our judges are corrupt especially at the Supreme Court level, then that is bad news. Our friends from outside the country are already saying what kind of a nation is this where the judiciary is rotten.
“The rumour is all over that there are judges in this country who are collecting huge money as bribes to pass judgment. The rumour is not good. All those rumours should be transparently investigated. If I were among the nation’s justices, I will insist on their public trials to save my own head and make them responsible. The hovering should be removed. It is serious, because it goes into the root of the justice system. We are not talking of what the NJC is doing secretly, we must do everything to redress the damaged reputation.”
Reacting to the Thursday’s release of 21 of the abducted over 200 Chibok girls, Cardinal Onaiyekan believed that the development called for cautious celebration, describing the lack of knowledge on the whereabouts of the remaining girls as a national shame.
He noted: “It is worth being celebrated after spending almost 900 days with the terrorists that 21 out of the girls have been released. But it is a shame on our country because nobody is telling us where the rest of the girls are. Are they dead or alive?
“However, if what it takes to secure their release is to let go those criminals we should have allowed them to go a long time ago. The issue has elicited reactions across the world , therefore, that the government can’t afford to hide anything on it. It should tell us the whole truth. These children were free during the advent of mobile phone technology in Nigeria. Many of them would, therefore, know the phone numbers of their parents. So if truly they had been given out in marriage, they are no longer slaves but wives who could call their parents.”
Onaiyekan, who described the insurgents as culprits but not the Federal Government, however, urged the government to sustain its current zeal at effecting the release of all other girls still held in captive by the Boko Haram terrorists.
He spoke on the sanctity of secular nature of Nigeria, where freedom of worship in line with the Constitution is guaranteed just as he believed that faithful of the world two leading religions in the country should accept their fate as people created by God to co-habit irrespective of their evangelism drives.
He canvassed cautious handling of the Kaduna State government’s seeming hardline posture with the Islamic sect ‘Shites’, noting that growth is inevitable where there is persecution over faith, citing Romans persecution of Christian faithful in world Church history.
For him, a blanket ban of the activities of any religious sect without first viewing the activities against the letters and contents of the Constitution could be a fringe of the rights of the concerned people, noting, “it was a ban against the Shites today, who knows it could be against the Roman Catholics tomorrow?”
Onaiyekan, while deploring the harsh economic measures against majority of Nigerians at present said a change in the economic team of President Muhammadu Buhari would not be the much needed solution to cushion the effects as many of the problems are beyond the scope of the indices of national market.
According to him, “we have to admit at this stage that some of the issues surrounding our economy are beyond our control. For instance, who are the economic experts that would have control over the price of crude oil in international market? I think we just have to look at some issues where costs can be cut without causing many pains to the ordinary Nigerians.
“The stories making rounds today is that governors of states and some senators are immune to recession. They sit in offices or chambers dealing with economic figures without facing the reality. We heard of stories of some former states’ governors who are still collecting salaries despite serving at the Senate. Even if the emoluments of such persons are slashed into two, they will not be hungry.”
He added, “yet nobody sees that as wrong. At that level, nobody is talking of All Progressives Congress (APC) or People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and nobody is seeing them as being overpaid. I think President Buhari should push this change thing more than he has done. We don’t need change of faces but change of governance. Some people are over paid where many are languishing in poverty.”