By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – Outgoing Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, on Tuesday, said the judiciary rejected attempt to stop President Muhammadu Buhari from contesting the 2015 presidential election.
Justice Auta who made the disclosure during a special court session to mark the commencement of 2017/2018 Legal Year of the Federal High Court, said the court resisted moves against Buhari owing to its position that every candidate deserved “a level playing ground”.
Even though the CJ did not disclose the nature of pressure the court withstood and the quarter it came from, he however insisted that “the nation owes it to the judiciary and particularly Federal High Court for the unity of this country”.
He said: “Despite all pressures to stop certain members of the National Assembly as a result of their abandonment of the party that brought them to power, the court insisted that every candidate must be allowed to test his/her popularity.
“Secondly, the attempt to stop the President from contesting was also rejected by this court. This is because we in the Federal High Court preferred a level playing ground to all candidates.
“It is this option and insistence of this court that has kept the country together during and after the election. We therefore join all other well meaning Nigerians to pray for the good health of the President as he tries to give an exemplary leadership to the country and fulfil the hoes and aspirations of our founding fathers”.
It will be recalled that prior to the 2015 presidential election, over 10 different litigants went to court to challenge Buhari’s eligibility to contest on the premise that he lacked basic educational qualifications.
Remarkably, all the suit which were filed before the high court were either struck out or abandoned by the plaintiffs “for personal reasons”.
President Buhari had engaged a consortium of lawyers led by 13 Senior Advocates of Nigeria to defend him before the court.
Meanwhile, Justice Auta who will bow out from active judicial service next week when he will clock the 65 years mandatory retirement age, urged judges not lend their expertise to “any enterprise that would obstruct the course of Justice by any imagination”.
He said: “I urge you to be the reason the common man would believe in the goodness of the system. Do not be worried about the social media and those that deliver judgment on the pages of newspaper.
“The job of judging others is a special gift from God and in the end you will face God to justify your actions. So my brothers, listen to your own intellectual voice and your soul too as many people listen to the noise of the world full of distractions. Be bold in your decisions and never be afraid of persecution”, he added.
Reeling out some of his achievements, Auta said the court now has divisions all over the federation for administrative convenience and to take justice to the doorstep of Nigerians.
He disclosed that currently, there are 80 judges under the court, saying “our further desire to appoint 10 more judges is about 80% completed”, he added.
Meanwhile, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, who equally spoke at the event, said there was need for judges to be upright, fearless and considerate in the discharge of their duties at all times.
The AGF whose speech was delivered by the Solicitor General of the Federation, Mr. Dayo Apar, commended reform efforts of the outgoing CJ, even as he stressed need for the judiciary to evolve policies that will enhance speedy dispensation of Justice in the country.