My attention has just been drawn to an alleged boasting by an INEC Official who was quoted as saying that there exists a 2001 Court of Appeal judgment which held that no court can stop INEC in its recall of a lawmaker. He was also quoted to have cited sections 87(10) and 110 of the Electoral Act. For these, he allegedly posited that INEC would not obey the injunctive relief granted against it and in favour of Senator Dino Melaye, halting it from going on with the recall initiative.
This argument, to say the least, is outrageously specious and constitutes a dangerous red herring in our justice system and legal jurisprudence. The last time I checked, INEC is only in charge of election matters, not in the administration of justice. Let INEC officials first obey the present clear order of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Coram, Justice John Tsoho, even if they believe the judgment is wrong, illegal, or delivered per incuriam. That is the right thing to do in a constitutional democracy governed by laws, such as we operate. INEC can then come forward and plead its case and even cite authorities from heaven, if it genuinely believes it has a good case.
INEC is legally prohibited from choosing and picking which order of court to obey, or which not to obey, through its self- assumed whimsical and capricious interpretation of laws and judgments. INEC is part and parcel of the Executive arm of government and CAN NOT usurps the interpretative functions and powers of courts of law, which belong to the hallowed precincts of the Judiciary, another arm of government. The doctrine of separation of powers, of checks and balances, ably espoused by the great French philosopher, Baron de Montesquieu in 1748, and enacted into sections 4, 5 and 6 of the 1999 Constitution, still holds sway today as it ever was.
I had wanted to believe that INEC was initially defiant about obeying the clear order because it had not received the order for the “maintenance of the status quo as at 6th July, 2017”, which was only served on its officials on Monday morning. But, if INEC persists in its obduracy, contumacy and wanton breach of a clear order of the court, its top management should be ready and prepared to embrace the cold and dire legal consequences: imprisonment, after the issuance on them of forms 48 and 49, dealing with contempt proceedings for disobedience of valid and extant court orders.
A word is enough for the wise. To say more at this stage will be otiose.
Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, FCIArb, LL.D
Constitutional Lawyer and Human Rights Activist;
Counsel to Senator Dino Melaye.