By Sam Eyoboka
AMIDST fears that the 2011 general election may not be peaceful, Catholic Archbishop of Lagos Metropolitan See, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, yesterday charged every Nigerian to guard against rigging in future election to guarantee the current democratic process.
Delivering his address at the second Cardinal Okogie annual lecture, the social crusader said election rigging and all forms of electoral malpractice were fast becoming outdated and unacceptable.
â€œNigeria must and cannot be an exception,â€ he said, stressing that if democracy is described as a government of the people then the people must be allowed to elect their leaders in an atmosphere devoid of chaos or any form of harassment and intimidation.
Okogie therefore warned that any attempt to re-enact the incident of past elections which helped to attract bad publicity to the nation, would further drag the nation to the brink of extinction.
He also urged the nationâ€™s Judiciary to save Nigerians from professional election riggers and political imposters in order to sustain an enduring democratic rule, adding that civil society organisations and law enforcement agents should join in ensuring that the war against corruption succeeds to ensure the success of 2011 elections.
On the debate of electoral reforms before the next set of elections in the country, the Cardinal urged the Federal Government to urgently listen to the voice of reason by implementing the recommendations of the Justice Uwais-led committee.
Meanwhile vice chairman of Body of Benchers and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief George Uwechue advocated yesterday that there should be no retirement age for judges in the nationâ€™s apex court, the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, adding that high court judges can retire at the age of 70.
Delivering the keynote address at the second Anthony Cardinal Okogie annual lecture at the St Agnes Catholic Church, Maryland in Lagos on the topic titled: â€˜A Vibrant Judiciary, Veritable Agent For Enduring Democracy in Nigeria,â€™ Chief Uwechue, said limiting the ages of this category of judicial officers amounts to denying them their contribution to the success of democracy.
â€œThere should be no limit to the retirement age of justices of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, but High Court judges should retire at 70,â€ the legal icon said, stressing that the tenure of office of judicial officers, as provided for in Section 291 and their removal in Section 292 of the 1999 Constitution needs to be revisited, to ensure greater confidence in judicial officers in the discharge of their duties.
In his remark, former military president and chairman of the occasion, Gen. Ibrahim Babaginda (rtd), represented by former military governor of Lagos State, Brig.-Gen. Raji Rasaki commended Archbishop Okogie for his noble contribution to the development of the nationâ€™s democracy.
He said that the cardinal remains a great achiever who was respected inside and outside the country in religious circles because of his vision to move the country forward, adding that the eminent cleric is a father and a close friend with whom he shares common beliefs.
Similarly, the Lagos State governorwho is also Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Babatunde Fashola said that a vibrant judicial system can not be separated from the process of institutionalising an enduring democracy in Nigeria.
Fashola who was represented by his Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr. Fransisco Abosede pledged that the Lagos State government would continue to ensure that its various reforms in the legal system become guiding principle for a better democratic culture.