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As 2023 Elections Put Judiciary under Pressure

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Justice-Monica-Dongban-Mensem
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As the battle for the validity of the results of the elections shifts to the Election Petitions Tribunals, Alex Enumah writes that the judiciary, unlike any other time in the country’s history, is now under unprecedented pressure and scrutiny to deliver justice on the petitions before it

In Nigeria’s history, the judiciary has never been faced with mounting pressure as it is facing currently. Since after the general election when the battle for the validity of the results of the polls shifted to various Election Petitions Tribunals, everybody has turned his or her focus to the judiciary, with many wondering if it would be able to deliver substantial justice without fear and favour.

 When the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) introduced the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), a technology that would drastically reduce electoral malpractices, Nigerians had thought election results would be more credible and less prone to legal challenges. But this was not the case.

Opposition parties alleged that the same INEC in their estimation flagrantly and willfully refused to use BVAS or followed its rules and regulations in the presidential and governorship elections. This made the several results it announced controversial and subjects of litigation.

With the results of the 2023 general election declared and the aggrieved parties asked to go to court, the only option currently before many Nigerians is to be anxious.

Many are wondering if the judiciary would be able to ensure substantial justice with their decisions reflecting the expectations and will of the people, as expressed at the polls. 

The presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, who was declared winner of the election by INEC would be sworn in on May 29, and begins to discharge the functions of the president.

But many, especially his opponents, who also lay claim to victory, feel that a brave Supreme Court, like that of Kenya, can annul the election if it is found to be deeply flawed or fraudulent.

While the Supreme Court had on many occasions annulled several governorship elections, it has never tampered with the outcome of a presidential election, whether in the Second Republic or the current dispensation since 1999. This had raised questions as to whether the irregularities that led to cancellations of governorship elections were not present on a larger scale in the presidential elections.

With some controversial judgments by the Supreme Court such as the recent judgment that affirmed the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, as the valid candidate for his senatorial district and a previous judgment that declared a governorship candidate who came fourth in the governorship election as the winner, the question on the lips of many Nigerians is whether the third arm of government would be able to live up to the expectations of the aggrieved people who filed petitions to challenge the process.

 It is against this backdrop that the organised labour and the civil society coalition, under the aegis of the Citizens’ Democratic Movement, on International Workers’ Day, urged the country’s judiciary, especially judges of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, to help safeguard democracy by doing justice to all the election petitions brought before them.

The movement, comprising several civil society and youth organisations, alleged that INEC had seriously damaged the country’s democracy with its poor showing at the elections.

Co-conveners of the movement which included Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), Senator Shehu Sanni, Ambassador Nkoyo Toyo, Professor Udenta Udenta, Salisu Mohammed, and Olawale Okunniyi, were joined by the President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Joseph Ajaero, and the General Secretary, Trade Union Congress (TUC), Nuhu Toro, during the event.

 In his speech, Ajaero appealed to the judiciary to use the opportunity of adjudicating in the petitions arising from the 2023 general election to redeem its fast-waning image. He said the labour movement and its allies were prepared this time to monitor the operations of the judiciary.

 Ajaero, in a speech titled: “The Threatening Decomposition of Democracy in Nigeria and the Urgent Need for Citizens’ Intervention,” said the judiciary had through its many flops attracted many questions from Nigerians, adding that, “if they fail to answer those questions within a short time, we would create a hall of shame for those judges that come up with judgments, for those judges that create such problems, that would happen soon.”

 He further said there was a need for the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and all arms of the judiciary to speak out on happenings in the judiciary and frankly ponder whether the judiciary was still the last hope of the common man.

 Ajaero, who reminded the members of the judiciary to remember that the destiny of the country was in their hands, said, “It is either they fulfill it or they betray it once again. When they tell you to go to the court, they’re telling you that, that is the end of the matter. Somebody will steal yam and say go to the court. On what basis are those statements being used?

 “That’s the level of ridicule that the judiciary has brought and as Nigerians, we all need to come out to rescue the judiciary, else there’ll be no need to continue to go to court.”

 Ajaero noted that NLC identified with the movement not necessarily on a political basis, but in order to rescue the country.

Addressing journalists at the end of their meeting at Labour House, in Abuja, the spokesperson of the group, Toyo, accused INEC of attempting to destroy democracy by failing to uphold the provisions of the Electoral Act and even their own set rules.

 Toyo stated, “This 2023 general election became an anti-climax, dashing the hopes of Nigerians for credible elections and denying citizens the emergence of qualitative political leadership across Nigeria.

 “Clearly, INEC in cahoots with some members of our political class has driven a death nail into the democratic experience of most Nigerians, thus, leaving the electorate despondent to resort to self-help in their effort to salvage whatever is left of their vibrant political engagement with the 2023 elections.  

 “Unfortunately, the majority of Nigerians, especially the youths, who fought with patriotism to reset their country through the ballot box, are now wondering if elections have not become the tool for legitimising the corrupt takeover of Nigeria.

 “Therefore, as affected individuals and parties resort to the court as the main conflict resolving mechanism, we hope that the judiciary, as the final arbiter, will ensure that the malfeasances of those powerful individuals and their corrupt allies will not be rewarded but, rather, they will be discredited and punished.

“We are calling on the Justices of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court to rise up to the occasion by restoring the people’s confidence in the processes that were abused by INEC and also stem the deep decline of our democracy.”

Recently, in his Easter message, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Matthew Kukah, told judges that the future of the country depends on how they arrive at their much-awaited judgment.

He added that Nigerians are saddened that the judges’ sacred temples have been invaded by the political class leaving the toxic fumes that now threaten their reputation as the last hope for all citizens.

 The renowned clergy said it was sad that their hard- earned reputation is undergoing very severe stress and pressure from those who want justice on their own terms.

 “Nigerians are looking up to you to reclaim their trust in you as the interpreters of the spirit of our laws. The future of our coun­try is in your hands. You have only your conscience and your God to answer to when you listen to the claims and counterclaims of Nigerian lawyers and have to decide the future of our country.

 “We pray that God gives you the wisdom to see what is right and the strength of character and conscience to stand by the truth. You have no obligation to please anyone. Our future depends on how you arrive at your much-awaited judgment,” he said.

 On his part, former Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Onaiyekan, said it doesn’t make much sense for President-elect, Bola Tinubu, to be sworn in before the conclusion of the election tribunal.

Speaking during an interview on television last week, Onaiyekan said the system of electioneering in the nation should be reviewed, noting that it would produce winners who don’t have the shadow of the court lurking behind their victory.

“There are cases in court that have not been disposed of. That is why we are in an anomalous situation. We have a president-elect whose election is being challenged and the court is handling it. I’m still waiting for the court to tell me who won the election. It doesn’t make much sense to be swearing in people when they are still in court, he said.

 Ahead of the hearing and determination of the various petitions filed to challenge the elections, Olu Fasan had implored the tribunals not to use technicality in subverting the will of the people. He specifically urged the Supreme Court not to treat politicians as if they are fungible or substitutable, but to annul the election and order a rerun for there to be direct electoral links between the governed and those governing them.

 He urged the apex court to be brave like the Supreme Court of Kenya, which can annul the election if it’s deeply flawed or fraudulent.

 “Would the judiciary ensure substantive justice so that their decisions reflect the will of the people, as expressed in elections, instead of perverting it? Or would the tribunal or the court be the continuation of politics by other means, whereby judges give subjective judgments that are not defined by law, evidence and justice? Sadly, based on the past, few can vouch for the judiciary to do the right thing.” 

However, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN), had slammed the labour union for threatening to create a hall of shame for judges that undermine the tenets of the judiciary and come up with ridiculous judgments on election petitions.

Keyamo warned that any attempt to ‘intimidate’ the Nigerian judiciary as it prepares to begin hearing in the presidential election petition would be an invitation to crisis.

In a long treatise on Twitter, Keyamo drew attention to a group of people he said had formed themselves into “watchdogs” over the judiciary in respect of the pending election petitions.

“Any attempt to destroy the judiciary as these characters are bent on doing, is an invitation to another Sudan. Just as they often issue the empty boast that they are a different movement and the judiciary should not ‘mess’ with them, they will soon realise that the judiciary is also a different kind of institution with which they cannot ‘mess’ with,” he wrote.

With the alleged failure of the INEC to make the elections credible, free, fair, transparent and therefore acceptable to all the stakeholders, the judiciary is now under immense pressure.

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Opinion

Essentials Of Institutional Effectiveness, Transparency And Accountability As A Panacea, For Good Governance

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Why would I think I can PROFFER A CURE FOR the ailing systems in the governance of our great nation? At least a good man can try, I have for over period of time now perused the thought —consistently- of the possibility of good governance, at least good governance, not great or excellent governance- even though that is easily achievable using the same principles for good governance- but at least we would do well to appreciate good governance in our good homeland of Nigeria, before I go on ranting about my thoughts, my people let me be quick to return to the subject of our discuss; “the essentials of institutional effectiveness, transparency and accountability as a panacea for good governance”.

Let take a deep breadth as we explore this topic, the irony of the truth is that The *Panacea for good government is good governance,* there is no hard and fast route about it, here we have a few of its components in institutional effectiveness, transparency and accountability, Good governance is like the proverbial good deed you give it and it comes right back at you, what is governance? Governance is simply the manner or style of government practiced in a particular location; in this case (our case) it is democratic government, which is a government of the people for the people by the people so good governance would be a complete cycle of the being a government elected by the people and then the delivery of the goods of its governance for the people (who duly elected the ones in governance), which would have to take us back to an even more important question for good governance to be anticipated, are the people in government democratically elected?

This question alone helps us to see that institutional effectiveness is first of all key in attaining good governance, as the question poised above is in reference to institution the Electoral Body, in our case INEC.

So what are the essentials of effectiveness for institutions to live up to expectation?

1. Key and Competent Personnel: – not just getting the competent people but getting the right people for the right places.

2. Policy Guided operations according to the institutions’ founding principles.

3. Ethical interpretation of Law and legal processes

4. Ethical Operations, Management and of all activities

5. Optimization of standards with International acceptable modus operandi

In addition to the above with the afore mentioned virtues of Accountability and transparency, good governance is left from aspirations to affirmative reality; Accountability is the act of being held responsible for your actions this helps to hold good governance players responsible for their actions in tandem with institutions, which is why the first factor is very important, and finally being transparent, being frank, firm and open, saying exactly what one means and meaning what one says, this when institutions and people in them say what they mean and mean what they say, not with hidden motives or agenda.

When all the factors described above are bundled to form a complete system of governance; good governance is sure to thrive.

Finally in addition to all these my personal opinion rests upon the afore discussed as already known factors and processes needed for good governance, especially by the Nigerian institutions and people in governance, as we have notable institutions, what i think is that the Nigerian institutions and people in governance should ‘Take Action’ in doing the right thing!

All Nigerian institutions, people in government have knowledge of all this factors, or at least moral inclination to do the right thing, but what we lack is the actual DOING, and if we as Nigerians, can cultivate the habit of DOING; then all our ideas, ideologies institutional effectiveness, transparency and accountability as well as every other factors that contribute to good governance would then become a conscious cultural norm of the Nigerian people which will  necessitate the birth and practice of good governance in our nation.

*SO MY DEAR FELLOW NIGERIANS’ LETS DO THE RIGHT THING, LETS TAKE ACTION!*

Peter Ameh

-2019 Presidential Candidate 

– Former National Chairman Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC)

-National Secretary CUPP

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The Role Of Opposition Parties In Entrenching Good Governance And Nation Building

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High Chief Peter Ameh

The roles played by opposition political parties in a democratic government cannot be overemphasized.

Just as we have across the globe, opposition parties have a primary responsibility of holding the government accountable for its actions and inactions and also enjoy the right under the Constitution of questioning the decisions made by the government which affect her citizens negatively.

The opposition Parties in any given society represent an alternative government, and is solely responsible for challenging the policies and programs of the government with a view to producing alternative policies and programs where necessary.

Democracy being the government of the people, for the people and by the people, is clearly indicative of the fact that good governance can only be effectively entrenched in any society, when the people understand and support the role of the leader of the opposition at all times.

In Nation building, opposition parties play a crucial role in determining the outcome of citizen’s representation in government and can effectively and democratically change a government in power when they unite for a common purpose.

This they can achieved by building strong and sustainable political numbers like what we witnessed recently with the 2023 general elections with Mr. Peter Obi, which indeed increased and showed the voting power of  the people in the last circle of election.

As earlier mentioned, the most crucial role of opposition parties in any system of government is to hold the government accountable to the people and to challenge and question any decision made by the government which will directly or indirectly affect the lives of the people.

The positive effect of this form of engagement is that it compels the concerned government to quickly and effectively address the concerns raised by the opposition in favour of the citizens. It is to the benefit of the people whenever there is any form of strong and effective opposition leadership within the country’s political system.

Another critical role of the opposition is in the field of law making through careful consideration and vigorous debates on Bills sponsored to be passed into law by the opposition parties, there is an enrichment of the legislative process; as such Bills receive more scrutiny than they would ordinarily have under normal circumstances.

It is indeed not out of place for opposition parties to align themselves with policies and programs of the government in place, when such policies and programs enjoy overwhelming acceptance by the people.

The duty of oversight by opposition parties, on the activities of an incumbent government, remains vital to entrenching good governance and has the anticipated tendency to enhance a well ordered society.

The effect of these oversight duties can be seen in the way and manner the government in power responds to burning issues resulting from ineffective representation and inability to fulfill the people’s mandate.

Opposition parties in any given society, have the key role to ensure that burning National issues are always brought to bare and made to receive the needed attention. This remains one of the ways opposition parties remain relevant to the public and to the people they represent.

As we currently see in Nigeria, opposition parties play a crucial role in the Nigerian electoral process by ensuring that all parties in the Country’s elections are given an equal opportunity to participate in and win elective political offices for their members.

With a population of over 200 million people, the growing number of opposition parties in Nigeria has to a great extent, deepened the Country’s democracy and afforded millions of Nigerians the opportunity to be part of the electoral process but what is however lacking is the absence of a truly democratic electoral system that will ensure transparency and fairness in the conduct of our elections in the country.

The preservation of the sanctity of multi-Party democratic system in Nigeria was as a result of the struggle by the opposition, to allow Nigerians of all tribes and religions have access to a representative and inclusive government.

The critical role of proposing and promoting alternative views towards the policies and programs of government is one geared towards entrenching good governance and consequently, Nation building. This important role by opposition parties affords the citizens the opportunity to deliberate and debate on issues that affect them.

Being in opposition, the role of presenting an alternative government remains an integral part of the intention by the opposition, to offer a more credible, viable and responsive government to the people, which role is better performed, when opposition parties join forces together.

The opposition parties can present this alternative government by clearly defining their position on views expressed by government which they consider not to be in the overall interest of the people. Get the people behind you because that remains the greatest source of strength of the opposition.

The role of opposition parties in maintaining a defined identity remains extremely important in entrenching good governance and promoting Nation building.

We need to encourage, promote and strengthen opposition institutions in order to achieve a better governance model for our people.

That is the easiest way to make the people in authority Know that true power belongs to the people.

High Chief Peter Ameh

– 2019 Presidential candidate 

– Former National Chairman inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC)

– National Secretary – CUPP

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Inec Broke Nigerians’ Trust With Failure To E-Transmit Results – Laolu Akande

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Laolu Akande, a former spokesperson for ex-Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, has said the failure of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to e-transmit results of the last general elections has ‘shattered’ the trust of Nigerians in the body.

While speaking on Channels TV’s Politics Today on Friday, Akande stated that despite assurances from the commission to transmit results electronically, it failed to upload election results on the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IREV).

His words: “It is important to establish something we cannot basically run away from. INEC came out of this election as a damaged good. There is no doubt about that. INEC itself set up a standard, determined the guidelines. INEC committed to the people of Nigeria that this is how we are going to declare the result of the election.

“In fact, the Chairman of INEC went abroad and said, ‘What we are going to do is that this results, when we get it, we would put it on our IReV in real-time’.”

Akande further stated that, while INEC has not broken the law in accordance with the judgment delivered by the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, Nigerians now have distrust in the body.

He said, “Now guess what? When it was time for INEC to fulfill its own guidelines—for certain reasons, we could talk about that—INEC failed to do what it said it would do. Now it is right if you look at the law, and I think the judges have also affirmed that INEC has not really broken the law. But INEC has broken the trust of the Nigerian people.

“it’s a problem for political legitimacy for people that came out of that system.”

Recall Vanguard reported that the five-member panel, headed by Justice Haruna Tsammani, on Wednesday ruled that the Electoral Act 2022 does not contain a mandatory provision for the electronic transmission of election results.

Vanguard

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