Hardly will anyone argue the fact that in our contemporary Nigeria, the public institutions and their occupiers are riddled with greed and corruption. For far too long, especially under the Jonathan government, the general perception nationally and internationally is that judicial corruption is all too deep, high and widespread.
The Nigerian judiciary is perceived as a corruption-producing institution and carries out its corrupt practices in a highly methodical and silent manner. It appears to be a pathologically and unashamedly judicial system where persons personally offer themselves to be nominated and appointed by any and every corrupt means possible and, once on the bench, some of these magistrates, judges and justices continue with their bribery mind set resulting in litigants having a long view of the courts as benches from where partial judgments are rendered day in and day out.
From the lowest to the highest court, beginning with the customary courts, magistrates’ courts, high courts, Courts of Appeal to the Supreme Court, along with its supervisory establishment, the National Judicial Council which is made up of judges who have risen up in the court system, corrupt practices are perceived to remain deep and alive in the system.
Judges as used in this discourse include magistrates, judges and justices, as they all judge cases and are supposed to be public servants, hired by the public to administrate our laws. But all too often some of the judges make decisions that are contrary to the law and find a way to be against the weight of evidence with dirty money/gifts as the motivation for judicial partiality.
Corrupt judges are persons who are most likely to manipulate or treat others either harshly or with callous indifference, and in the process, become pervasively patterned to deceitfully disregard the rule of law while paying homage to the rule of impunity.
Crooked judges with time become addicted to materialism, necessitating increasing avenues to sell judgments with the help of antisocial lawyers, in particular.
Corrupt judges in a pervasive and ongoing manner swim in secrecy, inequity, and in corrosive environments. They pray that the nation continues to flow within a highly dysfunctional political system; as such an environment is required to feed their power. These corrupt judges appear to be vulnerable to intense reactions of fear and favor when engaged in their work. In general, judges are very powerful persons and each has a choice if he or she wants to be fair, competent and impartial or not.
For some years now, we have had policies, reforms and training to help reduce judicial corruption and other malpractices. While there are some judges that have benefitted from these offers, there are some whose personalities are so dysfunctional, harmful, derelict, and even dangerous that they continue with their crooked ways.
One of the insiders of our judicial system, maybe in an angry or honest way having been forced to retire, Justice Ayo Salami, a former President of the Court of Appeal, in his public comments, talked about the rotten officers in the judicial system. Justice Salami called these sorts of judicial officers “corrupt elements.” He noted that the Nigerian judiciary is filled with dishonorable persons not suited to be judges who get into the system and make it to the highest level of judicial authority.
Justice Salami revealed how high-ranking, currently serving and/or retired judicial officers act as “arrangees” or couriers of kickback, leading to the “purchase of justice” in various cases. He told the world about some judges living lives of opulence in Nigeria, owning multiple vintage cars, in addition to having several houses with exotic furniture.
A former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Dahiru Musdapher, equally noted at different times how “all kinds of people” now find themselves on the bench as judges with many of them lacking any sense of decency and justice.
To reduce the number of potentially bad and actively crooked judges, psychological examinations of judicial offers becomes a necessary step in moving forward. This is not about the use of psychiatrists who focus primarily on the biological aspects of mental illness and psychiatric medications; instead it is about using psychological science with the help of doctoral levels and certified psychologists to assess the fundamental personality, emotional, and cognitive traits of persons like potential and active judges.
Through psychological selection procedures, potential candidates for magistrates, judges and justices can be screened for psychological conditions or characteristics which may compromise their ability to function effectively.
Through the psychological evaluation process, we can detect and screen out those with obvious antisocial tendencies and who are threats to public fairness because of their access to power in the courts.
Through the psychological evaluation process, we can screen out those with crooked tendencies, or those whose grasp of reality is markedly materialistic and who suffer from professional emptiness.
Through the psychological testing process, we can detect those with good problem-solving skills, of average and above intelligence, and those who can act appropriately in very tempting situations, as well as detect those who are impulsive, sexually loose, drink heavily, or have problems managing their financial lives.
Through the psychological evaluation process, we can reveal those with indicators of dishonesty, moral omissions, and a sense of hostility, aggressiveness, dominance, or abusiveness.
In this historic period of rebuilding Nigeria, let’s use the psychological process in the form of a new broom to clean up and improve on our chronic judicial challenges.
Dr. Oshodi is a forensic/clinical psychologist, a consultant in National Psychology, and a former Secretary-General of the Nigeria Psychological Association.