By Luminous Jannamike
ABUJA – Members of a civil society group, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, have stormed the embassy of the United States of America in Abuja; seeking extension of visa ban to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, and six other Justices of the Supreme Court.
The group accused the apex court Justices of travesty in their verdict on Imo State Governorship Election Appeal which nullified the election of Emeka Ihedioha and ordered the immediate swearing-in of Hope Uzodimma as a replacement.
The protesters said the verdict represented interference in Nigeria’s democratic process, if the reasons adduced by the seven-man panel, and the widespread criticism that greeted the judgement were considered.
Ariyo Dare-Atoye, who spoke on behalf of the demonstrators, expressed fear that politicians would exploit the Imo scenario, and use it to undermine future elections and the Independent National Electoral Commission.
He said: “The recent alarming, troubling and widely discredited judgement of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in a governorship election appeal that removed Emeka Ihedioha as the Governor of Imo State, has left us with no other option than to ask you (US government) to extend your Visa restriction sanctions to individuals in the Judiciary, who are using their hallowed position to undermine democracy.
“Nigerians are still in utter shock, disbelieve, terribly perplexed and cannot understand how a man who came fourth in a governorship election was declared the winner of a process in which his party did not win a single seat in the House of Assembly election that was jointly conducted on the same day and at the same time.
“We want individuals using the Judiciary to interfere with Nigeria’s democratic process through some bizarre rulings on election petitions deserve to be accorded the same measures as election riggers, by the US, UK and other foreign partners.
“The Justices who delivered the Imo judgement and their families should be placed on Visa restriction to serve as deterrence to others. The Justices are: Tanko Muhammad, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Sylvester Ngwuta, Olukayode Ariwoola, Amiru Sanusi, Amina Augie and Uwani Abba-Aji
“The US should give an indication that it will continue to support the judiciary in Nigeria, only if the judiciary stops interfering in the democratic process with unsound and unpopular judgements.
“We want the US mission to study the judgement, the situation and gather necessary information on the Supreme Court judgement on Imo State.”
Speaking also, Deji Adeyanju, a rights activist, said for the first time in Nigeria’s history, the country was confronted with a situation where a panel of the Supreme Court validated votes cast in an election even in excess of the total number of accredited voters for the election.
“We are also confronted with another dangerous scenario where, for the first time at the level of the judiciary, the Supreme Court has validated and created a precarious development in which the Police can now function as an alternative to the Independent National Electoral Commission since the testimony of a single police officer has led to the validation of an alleged exclusion of results,” he said.