The Supreme Court’s judgment which displaced Emeka Ihedioha and ushered in Hope Uzodinma may be a potent threat signal for Nigeria’s democracy and the rule of law, a civil society coalition, the Alliance for Preservation of Democracy (APD) has said.
Addressing reporters at the NUJ Secretariat in Abuja on Sunday, the quartet of Messrs Lemmy Ughegbe, Igho Akeregha, Ugochukwu Ezekiel and Ibiang Livinus emphatically asserted that Nigerians must rise and strive decisively to defend the rule of law and democratic rights.
The four represent Make A Difference Initiative (MAD), Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), Center Against Brutality and for Safety of Journalist in Africa (CABSOJA) and Model Leadership Foundation (MLF) respectively.
Expressing deep concerns that Nigeria is now contending against authoritarian tyrannical official disposition, they wondered how deliberate ineptitude displaced logic in an unusual consideration that delivered victory on the basis of impossible voting figures, adding that lasting psychological intimidation spurred by raids on judges’ residences has made Nigerian judges very vulnerable to official manipulation and blackmail.
Said Ughegbe in a text read on behalf of the alliance: “Our country stands at a dangerous judicial crossroad, which if not urgently addressed will erode the values of reprieve, justice and faith in the very institution that ordinarily should stand above the vagaries of politics and compromise.
“This press conference is not wholly about the shocking and Tsunamic judgment of the Apex Court on the Imo governorship appeal, rather the general decay in the judiciary and why it should be arrested for our collective good.
“Today, judgments are more political than judicial; judges are ruled by fear of what could befall them if they act contrary to the famed ‘body language’ of those that wield executive powers.
“It is in this sense that we are concerned; we challenge all Nigerians to come together and seek for ways to save the judiciary from self-destruct,” he stated.
According to the APD which states that it has no special interest in Imo state election which it sees as being only one of the latest worrisome indications of grave problems with Nigeria’s judiciary, there is no logical way of applying the concept of mathematics to what the judges have done.
The alliance also emphasized that while it cannot go to court over such issue, it wants the Supreme Court and all parties in the Imo state issue to consider a review of the judgment, adding that no matter what, citizens must now maintain vigilance over all democratic processes.
“It is still a waiting game to see how the Supreme Court will explain its historical ruling on the Imo gubernatorial contest owing to its obvious somersault on legal precedents it had established prior to the curious judgment of Tuesday, January 14, 2020.
“We are not unmindful that right from the moment security operatives – in Gestapo manner – laid siege to the homes of judges and thereafter the grave assault in the removal of the Justice Walter Onnoghen, judges across the country are in great peril, therefore wont to pander to some interests.
“The reason is because some of them are mired in conduct unbecoming of judicial officers, therefore, susceptible to blackmail by agents of State; it is imperative that those who are already compromised should seek for penance through the NJC or come public so as to have the moral courage to deliver judgments not only according to the law but their conscience.
“Furthermore, it is about time that Nigerians stand in defence of the judiciary as it serves as the last bastion of safety, decency and guardian of the rule of law.
“For too long have Nigerians shirked their duty of rallying behind a key arm of government that needs to be shielded from the vagaries of the other two arms; if we allow the judiciary and judicial officers to continual be muddied and bullied, then we should all count ourselves lost.
Also, the judges should be circumspect in making pronunciations or reaching decisions, theirs is a sacred duty and on many occasions, they hold the key to life and death; for instance, how can a judge ask a Defendant alleged to have misappropriated N100m to bring a civil servant as surety in the sum of N1bn?
“Is this not invariably asking that he brings an individual that has corruptly enriched himself at public expense, or that the one on trial should find no remedy in the law? What is the essence of the law if not justice and correction?
“As things are, judicial officers must embark on soul searching while we as citizens – corporate or otherwise – must work to insulate the judiciary from the grievous assault of those determined to upend our democracy and cast a cloud over our common destiny.
“It is our expectation that as the Apex Court moves to deliver judgments on other pending appeals, it will stand on firm footing and not be swayed by any sentiment other than justice for the common good,” the APD stated.