By Michael John
We live in a blessed country – unlike the Ugandans of the 70’s when Field Marshal Idi Amin Dada held sway as head of state. Then the fear of Idi Amin was the beginning of wisdom.
He was a wild buccaneer of a man who killed a man for saying that Ugandan money was like cheap toilet paper and did not understand why the Central Bank of Uganda could not print as much money as it could so that all Ugandans would be rich. When he visited England and was treated to sumptuous dinner, he promised to “retaliate” whenever the queen visited Uganda.
Benedicto Kiwanuka, was the Chief Justice of Uganda at the time. He was appointed to the position by Idi Amin but he, thereafter, had issues with Amin over his infractions of the civil rights of Ugandans. But the last icing which marred the cake was when he petitioned the president over killings in the country and the expulsion of Indians from Uganda. He advised the president to address this.
When his associates heard of his temerity, they were scared for his life. They advised him to go on exile but Kiwanuka objected and insisted that he had done nothing wrong except stand for the truth. A military commander, Ali Toweli, and his deputy, Kissimmee Obura, stormed the Supreme Court of Uganda and whisked the Chief Justice away. Other abductors included Hussein Ali, Moi and Andrew Andama. The Supreme Court raised and alarm and demanded to know where he was taken to. Radio Uganda reported that he was not abducted but escorted by the soldiers to a meeting with President Amin.
Amin was all business when he met with Kiwanuka, according to reports. He advised him to issue a statement which would be broadcast on Radio Uganda and other media houses that he had been kidnapped by guerillas. But Kiwanuka bluntly refused to be party to such a lie. The furious Amin, who never condoned anyone daring him, pulled a gun and threatened him, “Don’t you know that I can kill you?” Kiwanuka replied “You can do so, but I am not going to say anything at all. I will die with the truth.” Amin snarled and pulled the trigger. Kiwanuka slumped in his chair and died. His body was dipped in acid to avoid identification and the remains buried at Luzira cemetery. The Government declared him missing.
Of course, such a dastardly act can never happen in this anti-corruption government which is run by saints and angels. So far no Chief Justice has been killed and no Supreme Court Justice has been killed or murdered. No judge has been found missing – except in social meetings where they are not supposed to attend. Compared to Idi Amin’s Uganda, the Nigerian Supreme Court should be thanking God every day with three songs and “item six.”
Do not blow any hot air over the invasion of the residences of Supreme Court justices in the night some years ago. No justice was killed and where there is live there is hope – hope that one day you will retire and no one would come to your house and jump over your fence without your permission. However, the Department of State Security, unconfirmed reports have it, heard that the justices were fond of snoring in the night and as you know it has been scientifically proven that snoring is not a good habit. They stormed their houses to wake them up and save them from themselves.
Of course they also decided to search their houses and find out just how much money they had in order to determine whether they were members of the “organised crime” – Peoples Democratic Party. In case you miss the point, anyone in Nigeria who has a lot of money and is unable to account for it must be a PDP man or a PDP consultant. This Government reminds me of photography before the color processes, they only see things in two colors white (APC) and black (PDP). You are either black or white.
Then there is the story that the Chief Justice of Nigeria is to be docked by the Code of Conduct Bureau at the Code of Conduct Tribunal on a six count charge for allegedly refusing to declare his assets and for having accounts in foreign currency. There are things we should not expect judges to do – like tell lies. Telling lies is on the exclusive list – it should only be done by politicians. Only politicians should keep foreign bank accounts to use and pay their children school fees. The sons of judges should school in Nigeria, live in Nigeria and die in Nigeria. Judges have no use for foreign currency. They should not buy anything foreign so that they would not pervert the course of justice.
Apart from the spectacle of the country’s number one Judge appearing before his junior there appears to be other concerns. According to section 292 (1), “A judicial officer shall not be removed from his office or appointment before his age of retirement except in the following circumstances: (a) In the case of (1) Chief Justice of Nigeria, President of the Court of Appeal, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, President of the National Industrial Court, Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Grand Kadi of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and President Customary Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, by the President acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate.
(b) “In any case, other than those to which paragraph (a) of this subsection applies, by the President or, as the case may be, the Governor acting on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council that the judicial officer be so removed for his inability to discharge the functions of his office or appointment (whether arising from infirmity of mind or of body) or for misconduct or contravention of the Code of Conduct”.
Well not to worry. They say that the law is an ass. Sure it is an ass – the executive’s ass.