When the court system threatens democracy: The Imo fiasco

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The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has watched with unfathomable disappointment and shock the development coming from the Nigerian highest judicial body known as Supreme Court of Nigeria which gave a judgment that removed the governor of Imo State His Excellency Emeka Ihedioha (CON) and enthroned the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2019 Governorship poll Distinguished Senator Hope Uzodinma (Onwa) as the winner of the election and which has subsequently seen him(Hope Uzodinma) inaugurated as the Governor of Imo State. 

Gentlemen of the forth Estate of the Realm, you would observe that since this verdict was made, the political and legal firmament of Nigeria have remained charged with series of public demonstrations of rejection of that verdict which is a verdict of infamy and distrust due to a number of reasons that are pointed towards the inevitable fact that the SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA SEEMS to have stood LOGIC ON ITS HEAD AND ONE OF SUCH ANOMALIES OF THAT JUDGMENT IS THAT THE NATION’S HIGHEST COURT ALLOCATED MORE VOTES OVER AND ABOVE THE TOTAL NUMBER OF ACCREDITED VOTERS WHICH LED TO THE CHOREOGRAPHED ANNOINTING OF THE CSNDIDATE WHO CAME FOURTH TO NOW COME FIRST. 

Gentlemen of the media, recall that the Supreme Court had nullified the election of Emeka Ihedioha as the governor of Imo state on some grounds that most legal commentators consider to be nebulous and shameful illogical. 

The apex court ordered INEC to withdraw the certificate of return from Ihedioha and issue a fresh one to APC’s candidate, Hope Uzodinma.

The Supreme Court led by the much lampooned Chief Justice of Nigeria Muhammad Tanko alongside other 6 Justices on Tuesday, January 14, nullified the election of Emeka Ihedioha as the governor of Imo state and declared the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Hope Uzodinma, as the winner of 2019 guber poll in the state.

Senator Hope Uzodinma of APC had challenged the election of Emeka Ihedioha who was the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the tribunal to the highest Appellate forum beung the SUPREME court of Nigeria seeking to be declared as the winner of the election.

Recall that the earlier results by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), APC’s Uzodimma came fourth with 96,458 votes, behind Ihedioha, Uche Nwosu of the AA and APGA’s Ifeanyi Ararume.

The apex court unanimously declared Uzodinma as the winner of the poll.

The Supreme Court affirmed as follows: that the Illegal exclusion of votes from 388 polling units
According to the Supreme Court’s ruling, about 230,695 votes were illegally excluded from 388 polling units.
The court, therefore ruled that the excluded votes be added, leading to Uzodinma having the majority of the lawful votes ahead of Ihedioha and others; that there were Wrong rulings at the tribunal and appeal court
The Supreme Court also ruled that the lower courts were wrong in their rulings which dismissed the evidence as lacking in merit. The court held that the election petition tribunal and the Court of Appeal misunderstood Uzodinma’s case when they dismissed the evidence presented before them.
Hope Uzodinma: 

The Supreme Court agreed with the Appeal Court’s judges who gave a dissenting judgment; he rejected the cross-appeal filed by Ihedioha and ordered him to pay N1 million to Uzodinma and the APC.

The Supreme Court ruled that Ihedioha is not duly elected as he did not secure the majority votes.

Meanwhile, INEC has on Wednesday, January 15,issued a certificate of return to Uzodimma hours after he was declared authentic governor of Imo state. He was subsequently sworn in but the nation has since witnessed tumultuous protests from all class of people who think that there was a miscarriage of justice in the matter decided by the SUPREME court of Nigeria and this gives rise to calls for an immediate review. We support the open demonstration of vote of NO CONFIDENCE ON CHIEF JUSTICE MUHAMMAD TANKO AND WE HEREBY CALL ON HIM TO RESIGN FORTHWITH BECAUSE OF THE TAINTED JUDGMENT WHICH IF LEFT WITHOUT BEING REDRESSED ONE WAY OR THE OTHER WILL FOR A LIFE TIME REMSUN A BLIGHT IN OUR NATIONAL CONSCIENCE JUST AS THE SUPREME COURT WILL NOW ENTER THE NATIONAL HALL OF INFAMY. THE INTEGRITY, IMAGE AND INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY HAVE BEEN RUBBISHED BY THIS MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE AND SHOYLD BE ADDRESSED. WE ARE NEITHER FOR HOPE UZODINMA NOR FOR EMEKA IHEDIOHA BUT WE ARE FOR THE RULE OF LAW. HOW CAN WE EXPLAIN TO OUR CHILDREN THAT IN AN ELECTION THAT WAS CONDUCTED AND INEC HAS A NUMBER OF ACCREDITED VOTERS BUT THE COURT WHICH WAS NOT PART OF THE CONDUCT OF THAT ELECTION WILL ALLOCATE OVER 100,000 more votes over and above THE OFFICIALLY ACCREDITED VOTERS AND HOW COME ALL THE INFLATED VOTES IN THE CONTESTED POLLIBG UNITS WERE WON 100% BY THE CANDIDATE OF THE APC? TBIS IS PREPOSTEROUS.  THIS MALADMINISTRATIOB OF JUSTICE BY THE SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA MUST BE ADDRESSED OR ELSE THE INTEGRITY OF THE NIGERIAN COURT SYSTEM WOULD BE DAMAGED FOR A LIFE TIME. 
Judicial integrity: a fundamental commitment by Judge José Igreja Matos 
José Igreja Matos is the President of the European Association of Judges and Vice President of the International Association of Judges. 

“Adela Cortina, a well-known philosopher, emphasizes that corruption – etymologically related with the idea of ‘destruction’ – is encouraged by the weakening of the so-called ‘internal good’, described as the reason that justifies the existence of any given profession. Since judges exist to accomplish the essential goal of delivering justice to their fellow citizens, a vigorous ethical commitment should constitute a genetic trace of its professional code.

On the other hand, an irreprehensible ethical behaviour by the legal professionals, particularly judges, has an essential role in the legitimacy of the judicial system, as necessarily based on a bond of trust with the involved community. Ethics, as Rodolfo Vigo explains, endorses Democracy, since it implies an open debate about professional conducts, besides inspiring magistrates to go far beyond the mere obedience to their functional duties as prescribed by Law. Ethics strengthens and reinforces Judicial Independence by promoting the implementation of a culture of excellence, the ultimate ambition of any judiciary.

The International Association of Judges is the most representative organization of judges in the world, comprising 85 national associations of magistrates from all continents. In 2014, at its 57th annual meeting held in Foz de Iguaçu, Brazil, the General Assembly of the IAJ approved a Strategic Plan for the following years. One of the main points of the plan was the project ‘Judges against Corruption’, a concrete commitment to enhance judicial integrity and to fight corruption, one of the worst scourges of our societies.

Since then the IAJ has been involved in several activities, especially in Latin America, devoted to this essential purpose. The fight against corruption within the judiciary is an essential prerequisite to demand for integrity and transparency in all other State Powers given that the only consistent demands are those legitimated by concrete examples and positive leadership.

Therefore, it is now unquestionable that judges are not shying away from this relevant subject. In 2016, the first study commission of the International Association of Judges on Measures to Promote Integrity and Combat Corruption within the Judiciary supported “an emphasis on the importance of fostering a culture of integrity within the judiciary and the courts more generally”. We hereby support the idea behind the protests by PDP and the decision to return to the same SUPREME COURT SO THEY REVIEW THEIR DISTORTED AND ILLOGICALITY PACKAGED AS A JUDGMENT AND DELIVER SPUND AND ACCEPTABLE VERDICT THAT WILL MEET THE BEST GLOBAL.THRESHOLD OF JUSTIXE, FAIRNESS AND EQUALITY FOR ALL LITIGANTS. 

Section 6 of the 1999 constitution (as amended) states thus: “(1) The judicial powers of the Federation shall be vested in the courts to which this section relates, being courts established for the Federation. (2) The judicial powers of a State shall be vested in the courts to which this section relates, being courts established, subject as provided by this Constitution, for a State. (3) The courts to which this section relates, established by this Constitution for the Federation and for the States, specified in subsection (5) (a) to (1) of this section, shall be the only superior courts of record in Nigeria; and save as otherwise prescribed by the National Assembly or by the House of Assembly of a State, each court shall have all the powers of a superior court of record. (4) Nothing in the foregoing provisions of this section shall be construed as precluding:- (a) the National Assembly or any House of Assembly from establishing courts, other than those to which this section relates, with subordinate jurisdiction to that of a High Court; (b) the National Assembly or any House of Assembly, which does not require it, from abolishing any court which it has power to establish or which it has brought into being. (5) This section relates to:- (a) the Supreme Court of Nigeria; (b) the Court of Appeal; (c) the Federal High Court; (d) the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; (e) a High Court of a State (f) the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; (g) a Sharia Court of Appeal of a State; (h) the Customary Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; (i) a Customary Court of Appeal of a State; (j) such other courts as may be authorized by law to exercise jurisdiction on matters with respect to which the National Assembly may make laws; and (k) such other court as may be authorized by law to exercise jurisdiction at first instance or on appeal on matters with respect to which a House of Assembly may make laws. (6) The judicial powers vested in accordance with the foregoing provisions of this section – (a) shall extend, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this constitution, to all inherent powers and sanctions of a court of law (b) shall extend, to all matters between persons, or between government or authority and to any persons in Nigeria, and to all actions and proceedings relating thereto, for the determination of any question as to the civil rights and obligations of that person; (c) shall not except as otherwise provided by this Constitution, extend to any issue or question as to whether any act of omission by any authority or person or as to whether any law or any judicial decision is in conformity with the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy set out in Chapter II of this Constitution; (d) shall not, as from the date when this section comes into force, extend to any action or proceedings relating to any existing law made on or after 15th January, 1966 for determining any issue or question as to the competence of any authority or person to make any such law.”

To the pose whether  the Supreme Court Possess the Powers to review it’s earlier decision, we in HURIWA aggress with the opinions of many legal minds that it is worth doung and it has many precedents. Delivering the lead judgment in Adegoke Motors Ltd. v. Adesanya 1989] 13 NWLR (Pt.109) 250 at page 275A; Justice Oputa also known as the Socrates of the Supreme Court considered the powers of the Supreme Court (as the final Court in the land) to review its earlier decisions and said:

“We are final not because we are infallible; rather we are infallible because we are final. Justices of this Court are human-beings, capable of erring. It will certainly be short sighted arrogance not to accept this obvious truth. It is also true that this Court can do inestimable good through its wise decisions. Similarly, the Court can do incalculable harm through its mistakes. When therefore it appears to learned counsel that any decision of this Court has been given per incuriam, such counsel should have the boldness and courage to ask that such a decision be over-ruled. This Court has the power to over-rule itself (and has done so in the past) for it gladly accepts that it is far better to admit an error than to persevere in error.”

Chukwudifu Oputa JSC in Adegoke Motors Vs. Adesanya.

The next issue IS TO CALL FOR THE SACK OF INEC CHAIRMAN PROFESSOR YAKUBU MAHMOOD and the entire Top Managers for bringing the nation into disrepute which this controvcontroversial Imo verdict in the SUPREME Court demonstrates. It’s a big shame that INEC DELIBERATELY PLANTED BOBBYTRAPS AGAINST IMO PEOPLE BY NOT CONDUCTING A QUALITATIVE POLL AND OR FAILED TO STAND BY THEIR DECLARATION. HOW COME INEC ALLOWED THE SUPREME COURT TO ALLOCATE MORE VOTES THAN THE ENTIRE NUMBER OF ACCREDITED VOTERS IN IMO STATE AND INEC HAS NOT OBJECTED TO THIS MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE BY THE SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA? Also WE ASK FOR THE SACK OF THE IMO STATE HPUSE OF ASSEMBLY MEMBERS ARE DECAMPING TO APC FROM THE PARTIES THAT SPONSORED THEM IN THE ELECTIONS SINCE THE CONSTITUTION SAYS IF YOU DECAMP YOU LOSE YOUR SEAT MORE SO WHEN THERE IS NO FACTION IN ANY POLITICAL PARTY REGISTERED BYBINEC THAT PARTICUPATED IN THE IMO STATE ELECTION. 

AS REPORTED, Nine lawmakers of the Imo House of Assembly have defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) from the Peoples Democratic Party, All Progressives Grand Alliance, and Action Action.

The defectors include: Authur Egwim (Ideato North) from AA to APC; Chyna Iwuanyanwu (Nwangele), PDP; Chidiebere Ogbunikpa(Okigwe), PDP; Obinna Okwara(Nkwerre), AA; and Paul Emeziem (Onuimo) also from PDP to APC.

Others are Ekene Nnodimele (Orsu) from APGA to APC, Johnson Duru(Ideato South), AA; Ngozi Obiefule (Isu) AA; and Heclus Okorocha (Ohaji/Egbema) from PDP to APC.

Speaker Collins Chiji read their letters of defection at the ongoing plenary.

They must be dismissed from the HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY OF IMO STATE WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT. 

Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko 
NATIONAL COORDINATOR; HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA).

Wednesday 22nd January 2020

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