By Victoria Ojeme
A civic group, the Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution has called on the United States to place visa restrictions on the Supreme Court justices who delivered the judgement on the governorship election appeal that removed Emeka Ihedioha as the Governor of Imo State.
It said that the jurists had used their position to undermine democracy, stressing that they and their families should thus be placed under visa ban.
The group stated that the judicial verdict in the popular estimates of Nigerians represents a severe interference in the nation’s democratic process and “a terrible miscarriage of justice.”
This was contained in a petition dated January 23, 2020, submitted to the US Embassy in Abuja on Thursday. It was signed by members of the coalition, Ariyo Dare-Atoye, Deji Adeyanju and Adebayo Raphael.
The group stated that the apex court departed from its previous judgement in the case of Atiku vs Buhari, where it held that: “the law requires that a polling agent must be called to testify from each of the polling units across the country.”
According to the coalition, the Supreme Court chose to rather validate the testimonies of a police officer, 28 polling agents and a few other witnesses who are less than 60 in total, to arrive at its judgement that removed the People’s Democratic Party governor.
While commending the US Mission and government for putting in place measures to punish election riggers in Nigeria, the CDNDC insisted that those involved in the ‘strange’ verdict in the Imo State Election Appeal should be sanctioned.
The petition read in part, “The Justices who delivered the Imo judgement and their families should be placed on visa restrictions to serve as deterrence to others.
“The verdict in the popular estimates of Nigerians represents a severe interference in Nigeria’s democratic process and a terrible miscarriage of justice.”
The coalition reminded the American government about the controversial manner in which the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, was removed by the executive to “lay the template for what we are witnessing today.”
It added, “Unfortunately, the declining image of the Supreme Court since Justice Tanko Muhammad was foisted on the apex court by the executive, is now at the lowest ebb having hit rock-bottom with the strangest of all judgements delivered in the Imo State Election Appeal.”
“Since the CJN took over, technicalities at the expense of the substantive have become the order of the day, such that it has created a dangerous latitude for what many have perceived as a manipulative adjudication of cases at the expense of a well-established principle of stare decisis. This could only explain why the Supreme Court arrived at its widely condemned verdict that removed Ihedioha.”
The activists expressed fears that politicians may use the ‘conflicting judgements’ from the apex court to undermine future elections and the Independent National Electoral Commission, “except the Supreme Court reversed itself.”