A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Joseph Nwobike, has been sent to prison for bribing two judges.
He was given no option of fine.
His action is called perversion of the course of justice in legal parlance.
Ruling on the morning of Monday, April 30, 2018, Justice Raliat Adebiyi, sentenced Nwobike to one month imprisonment on each of the 12 counts.
The sentences would however run concurrently.
Nwobike was dragged to court by the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission).
The EFCC had claimed that Nwobike offered N750,000 and N300,000 in bribe money to Justices Mohammed Yunusa and Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, respectively.
Both judges are federal high court judges.
Counsel to the EFCC, Mr Oyedepo, says the money was allegedly meant to pervert the course of Justice which contravenes section 97 (3) of the criminal code of Lagos State.
"The evidence against the defendant is damning, the court finds that the behaviour of the defendant is unbecoming,” Justice Adebiyi ruled.
Adebiyi continued: “Why does the defendant, a senior member of the bar with juniors and other lawyers, have the need to personally liaise with court registrars? The court finds that the prosecution was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant perverted the course of justice by sending text messages to court registrars.”
In his final arguments, Nwobike’s lead counsel, Mr Akoni (SAN), urged the court to discharge and acquit his client, contending that the EFCC failed to substantiate its allegations against him.
Akoni said contrary to the claim by the EFCC, the N750,000 that Nwobike gave to Justice Yunusa was not a bribe but “for the specific purpose of helping the (sick) mother of the gentleman.”
Akoni also asked the judge to be lenient on his client based off“the fact that the defendant is a first-time offender who has never had any brush with the law before until now.
“He is a senior member of the bar who has conducted himself appropriately, he has run a law firm which has quite a number of practitioners, he is a family man with aged parents and children.
“Your Lordship, we listened to your judgment carefully and ask that a non-custodial sentence be appropriate. He has a lot to offer and I pray that Your Lordship considers this in deciding the nature of punishment to give. I pray the court tempers justice with mercy and impose a very heavy slap on the wrist.”
But the judge thought differently.
In October of 2016, the Department of State Services (DSS) arrested judges in different States of Nigeria following sting operations.
The arrested judges were subsequently arraigned for corruption.
President Buhari who was elected president largely on the back of a promise to crack down on endemic corruption in Africa’s most populous country, has often cited corruption in the judiciary as a major impediment.
The presidency has listed ridding the bench of corruption as one task that must be accomplished if the entire society has to be preened of widespread corruption.