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Justice Madubuichi Paul: A Judicial Reformer

April 13, 2016 By Abubakar Hashim

He is an anti corruption crusader and had sanitized the judiciary sectors in The Gambia and Sierra Leone at the expense of his life, due to numerous death threats.
He had to evacuate his family back to Nigeria when the threats became so visible. His name became synonymous with devotion to duties and work ethics in these countries. His presence in these countries was an instant check on people with corrupt tendencies. His name instilled fear in public officials due to his zero tolerance stance on corruption. Due to this posture, Honourable Justice Madubuichi Paul was an enormous dividend to the Gambian and Sierra Leonean economies during his stints in these countries.

In the Gambia, he was the head of the anti-corruption commission, popularly called the Paul Commission. Sent into the Gambia by the Commonwealth Commission in London, it was a ground breaking assignment for him as the entire public sector was riddled with corruption. His tasks were unprecedented as he was tasked to investigate a sitting government itself. The norm is that a succeeding government probes a preceding one. He stepped onto many toes. Beginning with the Judiciary itself. There was demonstration in the Gambia over call by the Gambian Attorney General and the Bar Executives that he apologise to the Bar Association for sending a very senior member of the Bar to prison. Refusing to do so, he stood his ground on firm legal ground. The Attorney General, Kebba Sanyang, was eventually fired by President Yaya Jammeh when he learnt of his folly.

The Gambia became a challenge to other African leaders on corruption. His life was literally on the line. He received backlash, elaborate and grand conspiracies. Death threats, fixed phone disconnection and other attacks became the regular norm. There was a gang up by the Bar against him as head of the anti-corruption commission. The cream of the Bar was an opposition party of all sorts. The main opposition party leader of the United Democratic Party UDP, Ousainou Dabboue, is a senior member of the Bar and of the dominant Mandingo tribe. Most of the lawyers are members of his party. The party wrote to the Commonwealth office in London that the Paul Commission was targeting the opposition. The late Nigerian Ambassador in the US, who was then head of political affairs division, African Bureau at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Professor Ade Adefuyi was sent to investigate him twice. The Professor was shocked to learn officials in the dragnet of investigation were mainly members of the ruling APRC party. The Vice President, Mrs. Isatou Njaie, the Attorney General and many others were netted. He was investigated and not found wanting.

Not satisfied, he was dragged to the floor of Parliament on allegation of corruption by opposition members over mismanagement of funds at the Asset Management Corporation, a parastatal in which he heads the legal department prior his appointment as High Court Judge. He was investigated and not found wanting. The judiciary was part of the conspiracy. He became the most investigated judicial officer in the entire history of the Gambia.

He was listed to be killed by coupists in a botched coup in 2006 in the Gambia. He survived the attempted plot. He became a trouble to the political elites and a friend and hero to the vast majority of Gambians.

He moved his family out of the Gambia when plans to kidnap his son from the Nigerian International School in the Gambia became apparent.

His work was replicated in Sierra Leone, though he did not head a commission as in the Gambia. He invigorated the Anti-Corruption Commission in Sierra Leone by his landmark judgments in the Sierra Leone High Court. His body language is a check to excesses. He revolutionise the way corruption was fought in Sierra Leone. This resulted in increase in inflows of foreign aids, grants and investments.

His competence and integrity were also a threat in Sierra Leone. It was impossible for the Attorney-General and the Chief Justice to influence his decisions on cases he presided over as a judge. He told The NEWS Magazine that his “guiding philosophy as a judge has been that the work of a judge is a divine calling and not just a means of livelihood”. He went on to say that, “I must be true to my calling, even if the Heavens fall”.

He has returned back to Nigeria, based in Port Harcourt. He is presently observing the political evolution ongoing and a great admirer of the present Buhari tough stance on corruption.

Culled from The News weekly Magazine, April edition