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Anxiety over election tribunal briefs

By Nicholas Uwerunonye on 17/03/2019

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•Ag.CJN Tanko Mohammed
•Ag.CJN Tanko Mohammed

 Fallouts from the 2019 general election in the country may not end anytime soon going by feelers from the nation’s judiciary that Justices may have resorted to dodging briefs over alleged fear of intimidation by security agencies, Sunday INDEPENDENT investigations have revealed.

Another area of concern for the growing apathy towards the once ‘lucrative’ briefs, sought by most judges, is the heightening tension in the polity over growing restiveness in the oil rich Niger Delta region due to what some analysts regard as an ‘over militarization of the area’ over election matters, as well as on the inconclusive elections in six states of the federation, which are preparing for the supplementary elections March, 23.

The justices are not alone in the ensuing nightmares as some politicians are equally gripped by anxiety over their alleged roles in the irregularities and violence that marred the 2019 general elections, with particular reference to Rivers State and other troubled states were many lives were lost.

In fact, it was further gathered that the US has been gathering information on these individuals whose actions have led to the death of dozens of people before, during and after the elections, with the aim of placing visa restrictions or outright ban on them as it had earlier threatened.

The US on Tuesday, March 12, had said that it is compiling reports on the elections that were marred by irregularities and violence, especially during the March 9 Governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections across the country..

However, speaking on the alleged resentment of judges to the election briefs, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, who will be handling an election petition brief on one of the tribunals said, “The peace of the country and the entire sub-region rests squarely on how the judiciary performs during the election tribunals. But how is that to happen when the judges are under constant watch by security operatives?”

By the ethics of their profession, judges are seen not heard when they are not rendering judgment in court. This fact, according to the SAN, is why the public has not been made aware of the ordeal of some tribunal judges in the last three months as election tribunals begin sitting after the acrimonious 2019 general election.

As further gathered by Sunday INDEPENDENT, some of the judges on the list of the  election petition tribunals have allegedly been visitors to the EFCC’s offices over some suspicious financial transactions. “They were individually summoned by Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, over details in their banking transactions which couldn’t have been obtained by valid court clearance,” said the SAN who had to represent one of the judges on this matter.

Following the travails of Walter Onnoghen, Chief Justice of the Federation, CJN, and chairman of the country’s principal judicial regulatory body, the National Judicial Council, NJC, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, opinions majorly favours the sentiment that the trial was specifically targeted at the judiciary with a view to intimidating them and possibly to influence on the general elections matters, which they say, support the claim that judicial officers may have come under target surveillance.

The Coalition of United Political Parties, CUPP, a group of opposition parties, had early last week put flesh to that spectre of fear raised by Pius, when it raised the alarm alleging that some of the judges on the panel to hear the petition of Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are working for President Muhammadu Buhari.

Ikenga Ugochinyere, spokesman, CUPP, said his group had seen the names of those on the five-man panel. He listed them as Zainab Adamu-Bulkachuwa, president of the court of appeal; Abdul Aboki; Peter Ige; J. S. Ikyegh and S. C. Oseji. He said authorities at Aso Rock endorsed the list which will soon be made public.

There hasn’t been any official response by government on this claim. “The approved list which was intercepted by our credible insider informant during conveyance from the Villa back to the Court of Appeal was drawn from a list of eight justices submitted to the Villa for approval,” claimed Ugochinyere.

“Nigerians will recall that we had earlier raised the alarm over the donation of a Senatorial ticket to the husband of the President of the Court of Appeal by the APC. We had questioned the rationale behind such donation when he did not participate in the primaries if not to secure the assurance of his wife, the President of the Court, to constitute with the approval of the Presidency the Panel that will hear any petition challenging the outcome of the elections.

“It was also a failure to secure similar assurances from the Chief Justice of the Federation that led to the onslaught on him by the Federal Government as the Honourable Chief Justice had insisted on doing only justice and nothing else.

“The list is drafted in such a way that without any matter properly being before the Justices, the Panel has been rigged and skewed with three of the Justices on the list having been approached and commitments secured from them that no matter the evidence put before them, they were going to rule in favour of the President.

“They are now agents and officers of the President and not officers in the temple of justice,” CUPP alleged, while asking Bulkachuwa, Aboki and Ige to recuse themselves from the panel.

Excerpted from a Daily Independent report


Source News Express

Posted 17/03/2019 10:25:40 AM





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