8.4 C
New York
Saturday, December 9, 2023

Emerging Compromised Judgments – By Sanusi Muhammad



- Advertisement -

It was Alexander Hamilton who said: “Unlike the executive and the legislature, the judiciary has no influence over either the sword or the purse, and may truly be said to have neither force nor will, but merely judgment”. Some of the judgments delivered by some Elections Petitions Tribunals and affirmed by the Court of Appeal in respect of the 2023 elections, have put the integrity of the judiciary to question.
This reminds Nigerians of the 2019 Supreme Court judgment in respect of Imo State gubernatorial election which is still fresh in our minds. Senator Hope Uzodinma who now touts himself as a governor, came a distance fourth in the gubernatorial election but miraculously, through the wisdom of the Supreme Court, Hope was declared winner of the election based on the score sheet he presented to the court sourced from his ‘printing press’ and vehemently denied by INEC but still upheld by the Supreme Court as a genuine document. Who then issued Hope the score sheet but denied by the authority charged with that responsibility?
The case of former Senate President, Ahmed Ibrahim Lawal is still troubling our minds on how the Supreme Court ‘robbed’ the winner of the party’s primary election his victory and awarded same victory to Ahmed Ibrahim Lawal a non-participant in the primary election.
In 2009, Dr Peter Odili, onetime governor of Rivers State obtained what is still unknown to law as Perpetual Injunction against any probe of his corruption led administration in Rivers State. He was left off the hook to enjoy his loot with a judicial cover.
Look at how the Plateau State Gubernatorial Election Petitions Tribunal chose to meddle into the internal affairs of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The tribunal without a second thought, declared the PDP as unstructured party that couldn’t have participated in the 2023 general elections despite standing facts against the decision of the tribunal. The tribunal married its idea with a wishy-washy court order earlier issued against the PDP which was obeyed through an organized congress as directed.
Funny enough, instead of the Court of Appeal to have dug deep down into the delivered judgments handed by the tribunal, it hurriedly affirmed the judgments typical of an accomplice that caused confusion, protests and further loss of trust in the judicial system. These are few other cases suspected to be compromised but forced to be swallowed.
If one may ask, what has structure or no structure of a political party got to do with an election petition so long as the party was cleared by the electoral umpire to participate? The tribunals were appointed primarily to deal with election matters not any other political issue but went the extra mile to meddle into other issues for…………..
Agreed, PDP in Plateau State had disobeyed an earlier issued High Court order to conduct its congress as claimed, that disobedience from the legal point of view is contempt of court. What is the maximum punishment in law for contempt of court? Does it include robbing the victory of the offender? That should be cleared by the tribunal that behaved typical of a judicial bandit.
Not satisfied by the tribunal judgment in respect of the governorship election, the leading opposition party that came a distance second position, rushed to the court cup-in-hand asking for reversal of the judgment in its favour. November 19, 2023 is fixed for the judgment. All eyes are now on the Court of Appeal with legal giants waiting anxious for the judgment while those suspected with pre-knowledge of the judgment are already in festive mood as one of them had already said in one of his usual uncouth statements.
Going down memory lane for additional flesh to this piece, it was in 1914 Northern and Southern Protectorates were amalgamated and gave birth to the entity called Nigeria under the leadership of a representative of the Queen of England, Lord Frederick Darnley Lugard. This gives credence to why the country is described as a bizarre contraption. Lugard and other subsequent colonial administrators were able to administer Nigeria through the 1914 Nigerian Council, the 1922 Clifford Constitution, the 1946 Richard Constitution, the 1951 Macpherson Constitution and the 1954 Lyttleton Constitution.
The excesses of colonial leadership propelled a series of agitations for independence including the 1957 motion for independence. On October 1st 1960, Great Britain, the colonial lord granted formal independence to Nigeria, the granting of that independence opened a new chapter in the history of Nigeria, a chapter of bickering, recrimination, rivalry, and struggle for control of power amongst the three regions of North, East and West. This unhealthy competition brought about the tension between early post independent nationalists who were mere ethnic representatives than national leaders. So, the first problem that challenged Nigeria was the fact that her founding fathers did not believe in her unity project.
Sectional and ethnic domination of government was the order of the day than socio-economic development of the country. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as the Prime Minister referred to Nigeria himself as a mistake of 1914 amalgamation. For Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Nigeria is a mere geographical expression. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe described Nigeria as a marriage of convenience. All these are proofs of “visionary distortions” and political disagreement of pre-independent Nigeria’s nationalists who later controlled the machinery of government with such mindsets.
This ethnic-tribal disposition or competitive communalism prevailed and still manifesting in contemporary Nigeria’s politics, federal, state and local government appointments and governance. Where ethnic-tribal disposition spiced with religious sentiment fails corruption takes over in full.
For instance, an Igbo man sees more of brotherhood in another Igbo than in any Nigerian other than Igbo. So is applicable to all other ethnic groups. In some instances, other Nigerians born and brought up in other places other than their areas of origin, are considered settlers not indigenes or as fellow Nigerians. This is the level of mess we have found ourselves today while still claiming to be patriots or mocking nationalism as nationalists.
Political power or public office is first to the benefit of the holder and his ethnic and religious group before any other person can be considered to benefit.
Corruption remains on daily rise, while nepotism, tribalism, ethnicity, and parochialism have become the directive principles of state policies. Nigeria, the touted giant of Africa, continues to crawl in the face of these vices and profanity.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu was awarded the presidency by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of the presidential election against all odds and sworn-in on May 29, 2023. Nigeria continues to face several social and economic challenges that include insecurity such as banditry and kidnapping for ransom, insurgency and separatist agitations. Despite several claims of expertise and experience in managing an economy, under Tinubu, Nigeria is worst than ever. The economy is in shambles, the government has no direction. The country is administered on deceit and pretence laced with ethnic sentiment. The naira is nose diving at the capital market as Tinubu has continuously pledged to turn around the economy and ensure adequate security across the country that remains a mirage.
Although, a period of six months in power can be considered as too short to pronounce a verdict on a newly inaugurated government, nevertheless, the parameters on ground so far, indicates one fact that is indisputable. At least, it can be said of him that we have an elected president who is in charge of the affairs of the country that we can ultimately hold responsible for his actions or inactions. We now know that we have a president not just a presidency.
Be that as it may, let me turn to core subject of the discourse—-Emerging Compromised Judgments from Elections Petitions Tribunals with emphasis on corruption.
Corruption is rightly called one of the most insidious social phenomena. It is not a new phenomena in Nigeria. It is as old as the country and remains the bane of the nation and one of the greatest obstacles to the application of the rule of law. It erodes trust in public institutions, hinders economic development and hampers access to credible justice, basic social rights such as healthcare, housing and education. The judiciary and law enforcement are among the institutions most affected by corruption.
Corruption in law enforcement agencies is particularly the most dangerous, as it has an impact on the safety of citizens and on their pursuit of justice, including cases of political corruption and police misconduct. We have witnessed how corruption appears to have prevented the investigation of serious financial crimes and prosecution of high profile cases. We have heard an originating statement from Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, then national chairman of the APC echoed, repeatedly “If you join our party (APC), your sins will be forgiven” which by implication, APC supports and nurtures corrupt practices to flourish. No wonder, the party is today chaired by Gandollar with Chicago State University ‘Graduate’ as its leader.
We have seen the practical application of this heresy. We have seen and read judgments of courts defying rational legal principles and precedents. Inexplicably, we have seen judgments of courts conflicting and contradicting one another on principles that are well settled.
In fairness to Nigeria as a country, it has not relented over the years in enacting laws against corruption, establishing institutions for combating corrupt practices, entering into international treaties, and adopting conventions and domesticating international protocols. The following and corruption enactments are extant: Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022; Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004; Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000; Criminal Code Act; and Penal Code. Similarly, the following institutions were also established as positive steps towards combating corruption in Nigeria: Financial Intelligent Unit (FIU), Code of Conduct Bureau and Code of Conduct Tribunal, as stated earlier, notwithstanding all these efforts, corruption remains unabated in Nigeria.
More worrisome is the impact of corruption on the administration of justice. Corruption in the justice system undermines its core values of fairness, equity, and impartiality. When judges and court officials are compromised, it results in the abuse of power, and the delivery of justice is compromised. Corruption in the justice system in Nigeria has resulted in the perversion of justice and escalation of jungle justice, wrongful convictions, and acquittals of guilty parties. Corruption in the justice system also creates an unequal justice system, where the rich and powerful can influence outcomes of cases in their favour. This has led to sense of impunity among the elite, when they believe they can get away with any wrongdoing because they are in possession of looted monies for use to influence the justice system.
These failures, have led overtime to loss of trust in the justice system. When the public perceives that the justice system is corrupt, they lose total faith in it, and the rule of law is undermined. This leads to a situation where people resort to self-help, and the rule of law becomes meaningless as the case in Plateau State today.
It is beyond denial to say that the Nigerian public is keenly watching and monitoring happenings regularly and deeply questioning the rationale behind certain decisions in the courts as a right. If there was ever a period where we expected the public to blindly trust the judiciary, it is long gone with the winds. The trust necessary for the public to accept judicial decisions and court orders without questioning and doubts is lost to corrupt tendencies of the judiciary.
The judiciary must at this critical time, ask itself how and why did it allow things to degenerate to this unfortunate level? The judiciary must take this decline in public trust seriously. It cannot afford to be complacent. It is dangerous for it to assume that trust is ever present. It must address the trust deficit.
The judiciary should be reminded of the fact that the general acceptance of judicial decisions by citizens and by governments is essential for peace, welfare, good governance and the rule of law. The corollary is also true. To distrust the judiciary is a ready recipe for anarchy. This is because citizens who trust the judiciary are more likely to engage with legal system to address their legal issues and to cooperate with its processes.
Those to dispense justice should always be persons that are even-handed, blind to all social distinctions in wealth, religion, tribe, status and no respecter of persons, just as justice itself should be. if a nation cannot look at its judges and see men and women who are upright enough to uphold the principle of the rule of law and do justice to all manner of people without fear or favour, affection or ill-will, then, honestly that nation has lost it all. It has become a true Banana Republic in disarray that must be avoided even by the mentally deranged!
Muhammad is a commentator on national issues

Hey there! Exciting news - we've deactivated our website's comment provider to focus on more interactive channels! Join the conversation on our stories through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media pages, and let's chat, share, and connect in the best way possible!

Join or social media

For even more exclusive content!

Of The Week


- Advertisement -

Of The Week

247Ureports Protects its' news articles from plagiarism as an important part of maintaining the integrity of our website.