By Innocent Anaba
Lagos lawyer and rights activist, Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, has asked the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmoud Mohammed, to step into the crisis that is currently rocking election petition cases urgently, to save the judiciary from imminent loss of integrity and respect.
In a statement in Lagos, Adegboruwa urged the CJN to use the appeals pending before the Supreme Court, in the cases of Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Taraba States, to correct the seeming confusion created by the decisions of the lower courts in these cases.
He maintained that the Supreme Court should use the cases to set a global precedent for the lower courts to follow in election petition cases.
He lamented a situation where the impression is being created in the minds of the public that different standards of judgment exist for different people and different political parties and different interests.
He said: “In the case of Rivers State for instance, a serving judge, Justice Pindigi, who was the first judge to head the Rivers State Elections Petition Tribunal, had made an allegation that he was approached by a certain prominent politician in Rivers State, to decide the election petition in a particular way, to favour a particular political interest and that he declined the offer. Because of this, Justice Pindigi’s panel was dissolved abruptly. The new panel that was constituted set to task to do what Justice Pindigi refused to do.
“We cannot sit by and accept such political influence of the judiciary by politicians. And it is not surprising, therefore, that the elections petition tribunal in Rivers State proceeded to nullify the elections of virtually all House of Assembly members, House of Representatives, senators and eventually that of the governor. That is unacceptable. It is up to the CJN to demystify the notion created from the judgments coming from Rivers State in particular.
“We are happy with what the Court of Appeal has done in Taraba State, but that is not enough. The Supreme Court should go a step further and correct the anomalies of Rivers State in particular, especially when those judgments run contrary to existing judgments of the Supreme Court on similar facts.”
Adegboruwa contended that it borders on pure judicial rascality, for a judge of subordinate jurisdiction to the Supreme Court not to follow or obey an existing judgment of the Supreme Court, on a matter similar to that which the judge is currently deciding, as that would spell judicial anarchy and confusion.
“By now, we should have a settled principle of law in relation to election petitions, as we have in land cases, in matrimonial cases, in chieftaincy cases, among others. We cannot be shifting judicial principles and precedents, to suit the whims and caprices of politicians, or to accommodate political interests. I call on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and his ruling party, not to give the impression of seeking a one party state at all costs.”