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FULL TEXT of President Bola Tinubu’s 63rd Independence Day Anniversary Speech

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Dear Compatriots,

1. It is my unique honour to address you on this day, the 63rd anniversary of our nation’s independence, both as the President of our dear country and, simply, as a fellow Nigerian.

2. On this solemn yet hopeful day, let us commend our founding fathers and mothers.

Without them, there would be no modern Nigeria.
From the fading embers of colonialism, their activism, dedication and leadership gave life to the belief in Nigeria as a sovereign and independent nation.

3. Let us, at this very moment, affirm that as Nigerians, we are all endowed with the sacred rights and individual gifts that God has bestowed on us as a nation and as human beings.

No one is greater or lesser than the other. The triumphs that Nigeria has achieved shall define us. The travails we have endured shall strengthen us. And no other nation or power on this earth shall keep us from our rightful place and destiny. This nation belongs to you, dear people. Love and cherish it as your very own.

4. Nigeria is remarkable in its formation and essential character. We are a broad and dynamic blend of ethnic groups, religions, traditions and cultures. Yet, our bonds are intangible yet strong, invisible yet universal. We are joined by a common thirst for peace and progress, by the common dream of prosperity and harmony and by the unifying ideals of tolerance and justice.

5. Forging a nation based on the fair application of these noble principles to a diverse population has been a task of significant blessing but also a serial challenge. Some people have said an independent Nigeria should never have come into existence. Some have said that our country would be torn apart. They are forever mistaken. Here, our nation stands and here we shall remain.

6. This year, we passed a significant milestone in our journey to a better Nigeria. By democratically electing a 7th consecutive civilian government, Nigeria has proven that commitment to democracy and the rule of law remains our guiding light.

7. At my inauguration, I made important promises about how I would govern this great nation. Among those promises, were pledges to reshape and modernize our economy and to secure the lives, liberty and property of the people.

8. I said that bold reforms were necessary to place our nation on the path of prosperity and growth. On that occasion, I announced the end of the fuel subsidy.

9. I am attuned to the hardships that have come. I have a heart that feels and eyes that see. I wish to explain to you why we must endure this trying moment. Those who sought to perpetuate the fuel subsidy and broken foreign exchange policies are people who would build their family mansion in the middle of a swamp. I am different. I am not a man to erect our national home on a foundation of mud. To endure, our home must be constructed on safe and pleasant ground.

10. Reform may be painful, but it is what greatness and the future require. We now carry the costs of reaching a future Nigeria where the abundance and fruits of the nation are fairly shared among all, not hoarded by a select and greedy few. A Nigeria where hunger, poverty and hardship are pushed into the shadows of an ever fading past.

11. There is no joy in seeing the people of this nation shoulder burdens that should have been shed years ago. I wish today’s difficulties did not exist. But we must endure if we are to reach the good side of our future.

12. My government is doing all that it can to ease the load. I will now outline the path we are taking to relieve the stress on our families and households.

13. We have embarked on several public sector reforms to stabilize the economy, direct fiscal and monetary policy to fight inflation, encourage production, ensure the security of lives and property and lend more support to the poor and the vulnerable.

14. Based on our talks with labour, business and other stakeholders, we are introducing a provisional wage increment to enhance the federal minimum wage without causing undue inflation. For the next six months, the average low-grade worker shall receive an additional Twenty-Five Thousand naira per month.

15. To ensure better grassroots development, we set up an Infrastructure Support Fund for states to invest in critical areas. States have already received funds to provide relief packages against the impact of rising food and other prices.

16. Making the economy more robust by lowering transport costs will be key. In this regard, we have opened a new chapter in public transportation through the deployment of cheaper, safer Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses across the nation. These buses will operate at a fraction of current fuel prices, positively affecting transport fares.

17. New CNG conversions kits will start coming in very soon as all hands are on deck to fast track the usually lengthy procurement process. We are also setting up training facilities and workshops across the nation to train and provide new opportunities for transport operators and entrepreneurs. This is a groundbreaking moment where, as a nation, we embrace more efficient means to power our economy. In making this change, we also make history.

18. I pledged a thorough housecleaning of the den of malfeasance the CBN had become. That housecleaning is well underway. A new leadership for the Central Bank has been constituted. Also, my special investigator will soon present his findings on past lapses and how to prevent similar reoccurrences. Henceforth, monetary policy shall be for the benefit of all and not the exclusive province of the powerful and wealthy.

19. Wise tax policy is essential to economic fairness and development. I have inaugurated a Committee on Tax Reforms to improve the efficiency of tax administration in the country and address fiscal policies that are unfair or hinder the business environment and slow our growth.

20. To boost employment and urban incomes, we are providing investment funding for enterprises with great potential. Similarly, we are increasing investment in micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

21. Commencing this month, the social safety net is being extended through the expansion of cash transfer programs to an additional 15 million vulnerable households.

22. My administration shall always accord the highest priority to the safety of the people. Inter-Service collaboration and intelligence sharing have been enhanced. Our Service Chiefs have been tasked with the vital responsibility of rebuilding the capacities of our security services.

23. Here, I salute and commend our gallant security forces for keeping us safe and securing our territorial integrity. Many have paid the ultimate sacrifice. We remember them today and their families. We shall equip our forces with the ways and means needed to perform their urgent task on behalf of the people,

24. We shall continue to make key appointments in line with the provisions of the Constitution and with fairness toward all. Women, Youth and the physically challenged shall continue to be given due regard in these appointments.

25. May I take this opportunity to congratulate the National Assembly for its role in the quick take-off of this administration through the performance of its constitutional duties of confirmation and oversight.

26. I similarly congratulate the judiciary as a pillar of democracy and fairness.

27. I also thank members of our dynamic civil society organizations and labour unions for their dedication to Nigerian democracy. We may not always agree but I value your advice and recommendations. You are my brothers and sisters and you have my due respect.

28. Fellow compatriots, the journey ahead will not be navigated by fear or hatred. We can only achieve our better Nigeria through courage, compassion and commitment as one indivisible unit.

29. I promise that I shall remain committed and serve faithfully. I also invite all to join this enterprise to remake our beloved nation into its better self. We can do it. We must do it. We shall do it.!!!

30. I wish you all a happy 63rd Independence Anniversary.

31. Thank you for listening.32. May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria

OPINION

Triumphalism And Denialism As Fallout Of The 2023 Elections

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 By Magnus Onyibe

Justice Monica Dongben-Mensem, the esteemed president of the court of appeals, has expressed concern about the strain placed on the judiciary as a result of an excessive caseload, mostly attributed to the inundation of political issues into the court system.

Her Lordship disclosed that during and after the 2023 election period, politicians officially presented a noteworthy total of 1,209 appeals.

These appeals are presently receiving privileged attention, potentially eclipsing other matters of economic and social importance in the country, consequently relegating non-political legal concerns to a position of lesser priority.

In her analysis, Justice Dongben-Mensem verified that out of 1,209 petitions filed, five (5) were specifically addressing the Presidential Election Petition Court, while 147 pertained to the senatorial election. Additionally, 417 petitions were related to the House of Representatives, 557 were associated with the state Houses of Assembly, and 83 focused on gubernatorial elections.

Although the distinguished jurist identified the high number of election-related lawsuits during this period as being primarily attributed to a deficiency in internal democratic processes within the political parties, it is also important to acknowledge the existence of an additional contributing component, which is the necessity for more amendments to our country’s legislation, specifically the Electoral Act of 2022.

These revisions should aim to address the existing loopholes and ensure a more comprehensive framework, a responsibility that falls upon the legislators of the 10th National Assembly (NASS).

As the verdicts of the various election petition tribunals began to trickle in on September 6th, with the five (5) justices who sat over the Presidential Election Petition, PEPT, leading the charge, the political atmosphere in Nigeria has become fraught with multiple upheavals, with a good number of senators, members of the House of Representatives, governors, and members of state houses of assembly having their victories overturned.

As of the most recent count, the tribunals have invalidated the governorship elections in Kano and Kaduna states, as well as several senatorial and House of Representatives elections across the country, and the election of the current speaker of the Plateau state assembly has also been invalidated.

The current situation implies that there is likely to be a prolonged backlog of cases in the judicial system, as politicians whose election outcomes have been overturned will pursue further legal action in higher courts in a bid to revalidate their electoral success.

Initially, owing to number of elections over turned,supporters of the Labor Party (LP) believed that the tribunals were specifically targeting their candidates. However, they later realized that candidates from other political parties, including the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the ruling party All Progressives Congress (APC), and even the smaller New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), were also experiencing setbacks in the electoral tribunals.

Given that the LP and PDP presidential candidates are currently pursuing legal action to challenge the victory and assumption of the APC candidate as president, it is important to note that their claims are based on allegations of a technical malfunction during the transmission of the presidential results.

This malfunction supposedly facilitated the manipulation of the outcome in favor of the declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). However, it is perplexing to observe that the results of other elections, which were not reported to have encountered any issues with the electronic transmission of results, are also being contested and invalidated.

The point being made here is that some of the results of both the Senatorial and House of Representatives elections that were passed electronically into the INEC database and displayed via IReV and which were adjudged to be unassailable by those denying President Tinubu’s victory at the February 25 polls have been decided by the various state tribunals as being tainted.

The events seen in tribunals around the country, which have led some politicians to express jubilation via triumphalism while others exhibit denialism, indicate that the principle of justice remains impartial. The emblematic representation of justice, often shown as a blindfolded woman wielding a sword in one hand and a scale in the other, serves as a powerful embodiment of the concept of justice. In the context of the 2023 elections, in my view,this symbol has been used to impartially administer justice to all candidates involved.

It is plausible to surmise that the electoral tribunals around the country are working autonomously rather than in concert, resulting in distinct rulings tailored to specific cases.

In this context, if the judiciary is really seen to be biased towards the All Progressives Congress (APC), as claimed by the opposition, it is noteworthy that the two governors who have been removed from office by the tribunals are from the APC (Kaduna state) and the NNPP (Kano state) stables.

It is noteworthy to observe that there has been no instance of a reversal of a governor’s election conducted under the platforms of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) or the Labour Party (LP).
Does that not suggest that the judiciary is working independent of the influence of the ruling party?

Following President Tinubu’s inauguration on May 29, the opposition parties have mostly been in control of the election narrative, focusing on President Bola Tinubu’s academic history at Chicago State University (CSU) in particular.
As a result of that, all eyes have been focused on the duel between the triumphant candidate of the APC, President Bola Tinubu, and the denier,who is the APC’s flag bearer and former vice president, Atiku Abubakar.

Given that this conflict has now shifted across the Atlantic Ocean and is being considered within the jurisdiction of the United States court system, where significant action from the opposing sides has already played out,as the presiding judge in the US case, Nancy Maldonaldo has determined the ultimate victor between the two parties with respect to Discovery order of court on Chicago State University,CSU, our focus will solely be directed towards the presidential elections within this discourse.

To establish context, American attorney Angela Liu, the legal representative of former vice president Atiku Abubakar, lodged a formal complaint with CSU which president Tinubu’s alma mater requesting the disclosure of his alleged counterfeit certificate.

In response, Christopher McCarthy, President Tinubu’s attorney, sought to postpone the release of his client’s personal information, citing potential harm if done hastily. This legal tactic was utilized to allow sufficient time for the preparation of a comprehensive response, a common strategy frequently employed by legal professionals.

Coincidentally, similar to President Tinubu’s legal team, Atiku Abubakar’s lawyers also requested an accelerated hearing of the case in the United States court, presided over by Judge Jeffrey Gilbert. This request was made due to the potential harm that any further delay in obtaining the academic records from CSU could cause to the petitioner’s case.

It is important to note that, according to the Electoral Act 2022, introducing new evidence in Nigeria’s Supreme Court is prohibited after a certain period of time, thus making it time-barred.

On Monday, September 25th, which is the date that Judge Macdonaldo granted permission for the response to be submitted, President Tinubu’s legal team argued that the petitioner’s request would be considered a fishing expedition.

For the sake of those unfamiliar with legalese, it is important to clarify that the term “fishing” in legal discourse refers to a situation where the motive behind seeking the authority to inquire is unclear.

On the contrary, it is anticipated that upon the conferral of authority, a favorable outcome will ensue. According to law dictionary, it is typically uncommon for courts to approve such claims due to their tendency to be speculative in nature.

The ongoing legal dispute between former Nigerian vice president Atiku Abubakar and President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the courts of the United States of America bears resemblance to a previous incident involving former US President Donald Trump.

While preparing for his contest for the presidency of the US, Trump made claims asserting that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Due to the absence of substantiating evidence, the individual in question was embarking on an exploratory endeavor, akin to a fishing expedition, with the intention of unearthing potentially compromising information by asserting that Mr. Obama is not of American origin.

Initially, President Obama refrained from providing his birth certificate as a means to refute Mr. Trump’s assertion. This situation subsequently led to Trump’s associates initiating efforts to obtain President Obama’s academic records through legal channels, albeit without success.

Eventually, President Obama chose to release his birth certificate voluntarily, thereby making it available for public scrutiny. Upon the release of this document, which served as confirmation of his birth within the United States, Donald Trump was ignominiously silenced.

Coincidentally, former President Trump had also taken measures to protect his personal and corporate financial records from authorities in the state of New York and the general public, both prior to and following his assumption of the presidency as the 44th president of the United States.

However, on Tuesday, September 26th, the city of New York successfully obtained official access to his financial records. Consequently, charges of fraud were brought against former President Trump and his two sons for allegedly inflating the value of their real estate asset in New York, namely the Trump Tower etc.

After employing legal measures to impede access to his financial records for nearly a decade,the regulator eventually obtained the aforementioned information. Upon review, did the regulator discover compelling evidence against President Trump that was anticipated to be very impactful or revelatory? Indeed, they did not. This assertion stems from longstanding claims that the real estate magnate, Mr. Trump, maintained connections with both organized crime and the Russian government.

During the prelude to the 2019 presidential campaign for re-election , opponents of Trump contended that he engaged in strategic politicking towards Russia due to a perceived influence the nation held over him, potentially stemming from his involvement in illicit activities on Russian soil.

The recent judgment by the New York Court reveals that Mr. Trump has been accused solely of engaging in the act of inflating the worth of his real estate holdings and nothing else. So, after all the hoopla regarding former President Trump’s finances, it turned out to be a little more than hot air as he was not found to be linked to any sinister activities as had been suspected.

This may be the case in the Atiku Abubakar/Bola Tinubu/CSU legal battle in the United States now that a superior court under judge Nancy Maldonado has ruled that president Tinubu’s CSU academic record (non-personal) must be released to the petitioner, as earlier ruled by judge Jeffery Gilbert.

In Nigeria, many have also referenced the instance involving former president Goodluck Jonathan, wherein he denied the request for the disclosure of his Doctor of Philosophy,PhD records from the educational institution from which he graduated . The university’s response to the Freedom of Information (FOI) request, in which they declined to give the information to a human rights and good governance advocacy group, has gained significant attention on various social media platforms.

While the veracity of the social media report remains unverified, the act of withholding or obstructing the disclosure of educational records to political adversaries is not an unprecedented occurrence in Nigeria.

At this juncture, it is apropos that we take a hard look at all the possible scenarios in the unfolding elections 2023 saga in order to have a good sense of the possible final outcome of the epic political battle between the ruling party and the main opposition party’s candidates for the presidency of our beloved country.

For the purposes of this discussion and conjecture, it should be noted that it is a well-established fact in Nigeria, as well as the rest of the world, that a male and a female can have the same name, particularly when the name is unisex, as in the cases of Chika, Uche in Igbo land, and Bola, Biodun in Yoruba land.

The prevalence of individuals sharing identical names is particularly widespread within the Hausa/Fulani region, where there is a significant number of perhaps up to one million Mohammed Abubakars who do not necessarily share the same lineage nor originate from the same locality or state.

The prevalence of shared names among individuals with origins from the northern region of our nation can be attributed to the historical practice of naming Hausa and Fulani individuals after their respective towns or villages of origin. Consider the late Mallam Isah Funtua, who was named after Funtua town, or Dr. Musa Kwakwanso, hailing from Kwakwanso village.

From a technical and political standpoint, it is plausible to consider the scenario where a female individual, other than President Tinubu who is male , is claimed to have gained admission into CSU. In this context, it is conceivable that both a female named Bola Tinubu and a guy named Bola Ahmed Tinubu, distinguishable by their middle names, may have been admitted into CSU around the same period.

And what if the clerk who documented Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s records at CSU made a typographical error and put female instead of male while carrying out the assignment? What if all the hullabaloo was caused by two (2) letters FE being unintentionally added to MALE to give the impression that there was a female Bola Tinubu?

The reason for raising the above posers is that these are political times wherein saying and doing things just to make political opponents furious or ticked off and fall into error are legitimate political weapons.

If the court has granted the petitioners’ full request, would this not amount to inadvertently giving aid to an opposition candidate, whom the intervenor has accused of conducting opposition research?

Is it not the reason why judges preside in the Temple of Justice with meticulous scrutiny, considering all aspects of a case, in order to ensure that justice is not only served but also perceived to be served?

William Blackstone, an English legal scholar, coined the proverb “It is better to err on the side of caution” in his influential 1760 book Commentaries on the Laws of England.

This statement provides a rationale for the legal principle in criminal law, commonly referred to as Blackstone’s ratio (or Blackstone’s formulation), which posits that “it is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”.

In trying to play the role of a devil’s advocate, one is of the opinion that proving a stolen identity case, which Turaki Atiku Abubakar’s lawyers are alleging and hoping would be the golden bullet to literally shoot down President Tinubu’s ambition and dispose him of his presidency following his election victory on February 25th, would not be a simple task, if not an impossible mission, and here are the reasons why.

So far, there may not be a female Bola Tinubu who has complained about being impersonated. If she is alive,she would have to be a witness or be joined in the case. If she has passed on, she must have family members that would stand in for her.

Otherwise, on what basis could it be asserted that Bola Ahmed Tinubu posed as a female Bola Tinubu in order to gain admission to CSU, given that no evidence of her existence is available?

My intuition is that the narrative may not resonate with the judges of the Supreme Court in Nigeria (assuming new evidence is admitted) if the petitioner is unable to produce the female Bola Tinubu, a purported US citizen, whom they claim has been impersonated by the incumbent president of Nigeria, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Under normal circumstances (especially on moral grounds), I would agree wholeheartedly that the educational records of President Tinubu or anyone else occupying public office should be released to the public so that he can receive acclaim for academic excellence, especially since President Tinubu’s CSU transcript reveals that his performance is in the top 10 percentile.

However, I would want to protect my academic records if they were to be utilized for the purpose of doing opposition research on me. This is a commonly observed phenomenon in the realm of politics. President Tinubu and his legal team seem to consider the discovery litigation filed by the petitioner in this manner.

The reality is that it is in the character of politicians to behave in ways that confound the general public. This is because there are almost always underlying issues in political affairs, and only tackless actors in the political game fall into the pitfalls set by their opponents, who draw them into the public arena by means of blackmail and conspiracy theories.

The primary objective of shrewd politicians, however, is to convert the problems foisted upon them by their detractors (who are numerous) into promotion by doing things on their own terms.

Imagine if President Tinubu’s academic records are eventually disclosed as directed by Judge Maldonado later this week, and they turn out to contain nothing objectionable.

How would the legal and media teams of PDP candidate and former vice president Atiku Abubakar, who have been raising expectations and feeling triumphant, appear if it were determined that President Tinubu was admitted to CSU legally and did not engage in identity theft as has been alleged?

Although it would seem as if l an holding brief for President Tinubu, the purpose of this piece is to enlighten Nigerians on the subject by highlighting the fact that politicians have numerous reasons to be extremely complex and convoluted in their behavior.

The reality is that it is inherent in the essence of politics for players to engage in sophistry. Which is why I do not fault Nigerians who are perplexed by the ongoing political conflict between 2023 election winners and denialist politicians.

In reality, there are always grey areas in politics, as opposed to black and white divides. And what is taking place today between former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a classic illustration of things being in the grey zones of politics that can be perplexing to the uninitiated.

During the legal proceedings in 2019 involving Atiku Abubakar and Muhammadu Buhari, Mallam Abba Kyari, who served as the Chief of Staff to President Buhari at the time, made an allegation that Atiku was of Cameroonian nationality rather than Nigerian.

Supposedly, this can be attributed to his birthplace in Jadda, a region located within Adamawa State. Notably, Jadda was situated on the Cameroonian side, which had not yet been included in Nigeria prior to the vote that made Jadda a part of Nigeria . Despite the absurdity of the incident, it did occur.

During the presidency of Alh. Shehu Shagari from 1979 to 1983, under the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), there were allegations made against Shugaba Daman, a candidate representing the Great Nigerian People Party (GNPP), an opposition party to Shagari’s National Party of Nigeria, NPN in Borno State.

These allegations claimed that Daman was a foreigner from the Niger Republic. Consequently, it was determined that he did not meet the requirements to participate in the elections.

In the meantime, Alh. Daman was living a normal life in Nigeria until he confronted the NPN and was drawn into the arena of anomie, as he was deported to the Niger Republic after the NPN obtained a favorable judgment. Is that not ludicrous?

In 2003, I assumed a public office as a commissioner in Delta, my home state, through an appointment by Chief James Ibori, who served as governor from 1999 to 2007. Before the appointment was confirmed , I encountered vehement opposition from a local group that aimed to promote an alternative candidate for the commissioner position in my local government area.

However, their efforts were unsuccessful, as Governor Ibori selected me for the appointment instead of their preferred candidate.

In an attempt to obfuscate the situation, the local political interest group had disseminated a fabricated story, which can be characterized as a very deceptive falsehood, asserting that my origin was in Edo State rather than Agbor in Delta State.

The individuals provided a rationale for their assertion subsequent to discovering the existence of a family residing in the border town between Edo and Delta State (Igbanke) who possessed an identical surname to mine. The absence of any biological or social connection to the specified family in Igbanke, Edo State, was inconsequential to them. In reality, I hail from Ogbe-Umudein, the homestead of the kingmakers in Agbor Kingdom.

Following Governor Ibori’s dismissal of the false allegations and subsequent confirmation of my appointment, a period of calm ensued, and the individuals involved in the plot to undermine my political career revealed to me their collaborative efforts aimed at sabotaging my political trajectory. This exemplifies the nature of politics.

As a result of the foregoing, my advice to those splitting hairs over President Tinubu’s academic records or those ecstatic that the president’s political career is about to be derailed by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, whose status has shifted from denial to triumphalism as a result of his victory in the US court, is to wait and see what happens in Nigeria’s Supreme Court, which is the final arbiter on the matter.

While the Discovery case in the United States has kept optimism alive in Turaki Atiku Abubakar’s camp, Mr. Peter Obi’s ‘neck of the wood’ looks to have turned inactive. Will the US court’s finding that the discovery requested by the petitioner on President Tinubu’s academic records at CSU rouse the LP camp?

The petitioner, former vice president Atiku Abubakar’s legal and media team, has been ecstatic about the explosive evidence that the president’s comprehensive academic records at CSU, once disclosed, may contain.
And is there any sure guarantee possibility that when the new evidence (assuming it contains anything incriminating) is presented by the petitioner in his appeal to the Supreme Court of Nigeria, it will be admitted or permitted to matter in the case?

And because the Supreme Court is structured to consider not only the fundamental principles of law but also the existential realities of society by balancing the positive against the negative effects of its decisions, the highest court will likely have a lot to ruminate on.

Over all, the greatest beneficiaries of the hard-fought legal battles in the US and Nigeria would be the Nigerian electorate. That would be regardless of the triumphalism and denial of the 2023 elections by the ruling and main opposition parties and their presidential candidates, President Bola Tinubu and former vice president Atiku Abubakar.

The assertion above is underscored by the fact that at the conclusion of the arduous litigation, our electoral law would be stronger.

That is not discountenancing the fact that some attorneys in Nigeria and the United States have reaped and will continue to reap handsome financial rewards as a result of the rush to the courts by politicians who believe that the laws of our land, particularly with regard to the Electoral Act 2023, are too vague and therefore require the intervention of the judiciary, the third branch of government, and the interpreters of laws.

Put succinctly, as someone who considers himself an optimist that constantly looks for the positive side of bad circumstances (turning lemons into lemonade) and who finds oasis in deserts, even though some critics think that the 2023 elections have brought democracy to its nadir in our nation,I am of the opinion that anything that emerges from the intensely contested legal battles in Nigeria and the US courts between Mr. Peter Obi of the LP and Turaki Atiku Abubakar of the PDP over President Bola Tinubu’s victory in the election 2023 would undoubtedly deepen the practice of democracy in Nigeria by turning it from what appears to be a narrative of doom, gloom, and a fledgling state into lofty heights.

That is because our lawmakers in the 10th National Assembly will now see the obvious need to fine-tune the laws and rules governing elections, which need to be clarified and made watertight in order to avoid clogging the law courts with pre- and post-election litigation, which the Appeal Court President Justice Monica Dongben-Mensem has lamented as putting too much undue strain on the judges.

According to the jurist, the prominence of electoral issues is overshadowing and displacing other facets of life, such as commercial disputes and familial problems, which also need legal resolution. Moreover, the prioritization of political cases seems to be superseding other matters during the present election period.

Having been apprised of the above information, it is my fervent hope and l guess the expectation of all well-meaning Nigerians that the 10th National Assembly will tie up all the loose ends in the Electoral Act 2022 that have caused politicians to rush to the courts over election matters so that apolitical Nigerians can breathe.

Magnus Onyibe,an entrepreneur,public policy analyst, author,democracy advocate,development strategist,alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA, and a former commissioner in the Delta State government, sent this piece from Lagos, Nigeria.
To continue with this conversation and more, please visit www.magnum.ng.

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Perspective

Forging Ahead: NDDC’s Collaborative Push for a Sustainable Niger Delta

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By Pius  Ughakpoteni

 

In an era where transformative narratives are yearned for, the Niger Delta emerges as a beacon of hope, showcasing what can be achieved when vision aligns with action. The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), under the forward-thinking leadership of Dr.

Samuel Ogbuku, is setting an exemplary trajectory for the Niger Delta.

The British High Commission’s commitment to partner with the NDDC on clean energy initiatives heralds a promising leap towards sustainability.

Mr. Hamish Tye, Second Secretary (Political), British High Commission, elucidated his vision during his visit to the Commission’s Headquarters last week:

Mr Tye observed that the NDDC had shown commitment to realising sustainable development in the Niger Delta region through partnerships and collaborations with national and international development agencies.

He stated: “The attraction to the NDDC now is to explore the possibilities of collaboration. Given the work the NDDC is doing in the Niger Delta region, I believe a lot of partners would support its efforts more broadly. We would further explore partnerships with the NDDC, with a focus on renewable, clean energy and green infrastructure.”

However, the NDDC’s endeavors don’t halt at environmental initiatives. Their foresight encompasses an ecosystem of growth, enterprise, and innovation. Speaking about the collaboration with the Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone Authority (OGFTZA) to develop industrial parks, Dr. Ogbuku remarked, “The essence of these parks goes beyond industry. It’s about creating hubs of innovation, entrepreneurship, and opportunities. By amalgamating industries in a singular space, we’re fostering a unique synergy. The ripple effects will be manifold – job creation, skill development, and a boost in the regional economy.”

Senator Tijani Kaura, Managing Director of OGFTZA, concurred, in an address when he led a delegation to the NDDC last week: “Industrial Parks stand as pillars of development. This collaboration embodies our shared vision for the Delta. By working hand in hand, we’re not just building infrastructure; we’re crafting a legacy.”

At its core, the NDDC realizes that the heart of the Delta lies in its youth. Recognizing and harnessing this potential is paramount. On the importance of youth entrepreneurship, Dr. Ogbuku voiced his aspirations, “The youth are the Delta’s driving force. Their innovation, energy, and spirit are unparalleled. Our commitment is to provide them with the platforms, resources, and support they require to turn their dreams into reality.”

His sentiment found resonance with Dr. Okon Emah, President of Coalition of South South Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, COSSCCIMA, when they paid a courtesy visit to the NDDC last week. He stated, “The vigor and dynamism of the youth in our region are palpable. With institutions like the NDDC offering unwavering support, the possibilities are limitless. Together, we aim to not just cultivate entrepreneurs but leaders who will shape the future of the Niger Delta.”

To ensure these initiatives are meticulously targeted, the NDDC’s approach is rooted in data. Dr. Ogbuku highlighted this, saying, “In this digital age, having a comprehensive understanding of our youth’s profile is pivotal. Our database initiative is geared towards this – a roadmap to formulate strategies tailored to our youth’s aspirations and needs.”

Piecing it all together, it becomes evident that the NDDC, flanked by its esteemed partners, is on a relentless mission. Its endeavors echo a clarion call for a brighter, prosperous, and sustainable future for the Niger Delta. Each collaboration, each initiative, is a thread in the tapestry of progress being woven.

Echoing the sentiments of many who have observed this transformative journey, Senator Kaura stated, “This is a golden age for the Niger Delta. With the NDDC’s proactive vision and the collaborative spirit of partners, we’re not just on the brink of change; we’re in the midst of a revolution.”

The world watches with bated breath as the NDDC, with its allies, crafts a luminous chapter of progress, promise, and prosperity for the Niger Delta. The road ahead is laden with opportunities, and the Delta is poised to seize them all.

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JUDICIARY

Judiciary and the Future of Elections in Nigeria, By Sebastian Hon

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I thank the Chief Judge of Benue State, Hon. Justice Maurice Ikpambese, who has deemed me fit and proper to once again deliver the lead paper at the 2023/2024 Legal Year of the Benue State Judiciary. I performed similar roles in 2009 (just a year after my elevation to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria) and in 2019, about four years ago.

I must say that the theme of this year’s Legal Year in Benue State is most suiting, given the stark realities popping their eyes into our very faces as Nigerians.

As stakeholders in the Legal Profession, we cannot pretend that all is well with the Profession in Nigeria and more particularly, with the Nigerian Judiciary, which is facing all manner of incendiary attacks left, right and centre.
Never in the history of this Nation has the Nigerian Judiciary faced such attacks as this year! May that day never come when Nigerians will rise up in arms against members of the Legal Profession, including members of the Judiciary. In Jesus’ Name I pray.

This Paper, which, in my humble opinion, is a rushed assemblage of all authorities I can gather (no thanks to my gruelling Election Petition schedule) is, therefore most relevant at this moment, to refresh our memory. Kindly forgive any noticeable inadequacies in the presentation – as I just realised on Thursday, 14th September, 2023, that I had an all-important Paper to present before your Noble selves on Saturday, 16th September, 2023.

[B] MAIN PAPER DISCUSSED

The judicial powers of the Federation are vested in the courts established for the Federation of Nigeria, as specified in detail, in section 6(1)-(6) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.

On the other hand, the jurisdiction of all these Courts are as prescribed by the same Constitution under Chapter VII. We shall go no further, since any further discussion on this will stray us far away from the bounds of today’s discourse.

I have segmented this Paper into several subheadings, for easier comprehension and appreciation. 

The Nigerian Judiciary as the Guardian of the Constitution

All democratic powers in Nigeria today, including the Judiciary, derive their source from the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended; hence this all-important gathering must appreciate the role the 3rd arm of government, the Judiciary, plays in protecting the said Constitution. This role, the courts play, by insisting on scrupulous compliance with the provisions of the said Constitution, to not only establish an enduring democratic culture, but also to deepen it. Case law supports this in unmistaken terms.

Thus, in Alamieyeseigha vs. FRN, the Court of Appeal held emphatically as follows:

The judiciary has a fundamental role to play as the protector and guardian of the Constitution. They further have the mandate to curb the excesses and overbearing executive and legislative act by their judicious pronouncements. [Emphasis mine]

In Abubakar vs. INEC, I.T. Muhammad, CJN, delivering the lead judgment of the Supreme Court in a hotly-contested presidential election, held as follows:

In interpreting the provision of the Constitution, which is the organic law of the land or the grundnorm, care must be taken to give it the real meaning which the people had in mind in adopting its provisions. Speaking along this line, Mudapher, JSC (as he then was), in Brigadier Marwa & ors v. Admiral Nyako & ors (2012) LPELR-7837(SC) pages 45-46, paragraphs B-A; (2012) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1296) 199 adopted with approval the dictum of Chief Justice Dickson in the Supreme Court of Canada, in Hunter v. Southam Inc (1984) 2 SCR 145 wherein his Lordship made the following comments:-

“The task of expounding a Constitution is crucially different from that of construing a statute. a statute defines present rights and obligations… a Constitution by contrast is drafted with an eye to the future. Its function is to provide a continuing framework for the legitimate exercise of governmental power…. It must therefore, be capable of growth and development over time to meet new social, political and historical realities often unimagined by the framers. The judiciary is the guardian of the Constitution and must in interpreting its provisions, bear these considerations in mind.” [Emphasis supplied]

The Nigerian courts perform the role of ‘guardians’ of the Constitution because they are the ones symbolically vested with powers to take ‘custody’ of same. Thus, the Supreme Court rightly described the Nigerian Judiciary as “the custodian of the Constitution.”

In the discharge of this deeply important role, the Nigerian Judiciary must always know and appreciate that enthroning a genuine democratic process and then deepening it as a culture is a must, for even the very same Judiciary to function well. Thus, in Ukpo vs. Imoke, Salauwa, JCA (as he then was) held that section 14 of the 1999 Constitution as amended “allowed [section] 40 above the importance of entrenching a viable hitch free electoral process with a view to ensuring a true and dynamic democratic culture vis-à-vis good governance in the country.” And, after quoting sections 6(1) and (2) and 13 of the same Constitution, his lordship rammed home the point why we are here, on page 177, thus:

Thus, I have deemed it expedient to reiterate that the role of the judiciary cannot be over emphasised. It is instructive that never has the judiciary of this great nation had so much to gain, or so much to lose – in terms of prestige and honour. It is my belief that the judiciary has a sacred, albeit arduous duty to salvage this nation. And as judges, we must strive to rise up to that challenge. For only then can we earn for ourselves the gratitude of the people, and as parties in the temple of justice, the eternal blessing of the Almighty God (The Supreme Judge). 

This, then represents the true and rightful role the Nigerian Judiciary must play and do so ceaselessly; otherwise, as aptly captured in the dictum above, this “would make the judiciary lose its credibility and legitimacy….” No person would like this; and indeed, no sane person likes the current perception of the Nigerian Judiciary in the eyes of the common man.

The greatest challenge against the integrity of the Nigerian Judiciary is its handling of political matters. Rightly or wrongly, many Nigerians have come to the conclusion that there is no or little justice in political or politically-exposed matters.

Politics anywhere is a game that builds and consumes all consumables – be they highly or lowly placed; be they institutions or animated beings. Political activity, which is the stepping stone to democracy, is almost always hydra-heightened, building and destroying individuals and institutions, as each performs their roles or as each becomes a victim along the way. The Supreme Court acknowledged the power play in politics in the recent case of Waziri vs. PDP, in the following words:

It must be noted that politics and electioneering is not only a game of number[s] and popular choice but a game of gimmicks and outsmart. Everyone devices every means to size down and knock out his opponents in order to get the upper hand. 

In Nigeria, as things are presently, the Judiciary seems to be at the receiving end of this political gimmickry, which represents, throughout the history of Nigeria, the greatest threat to the survival of our democracy, nay, the Nation.

Whether we like it or not, the Judiciary performs very sacred and delicate functions, leading to grave changes in the socioeconomic and political landscape of any given nation; or leading to the cementing of the existing structural status quo. That is the more reason why our respected Judges and Justices must, as a matter of utmost urgency and necessity, arrest the negative public perception of the Nigerian Judiciary – which will go far into salvaging what we have left as a Nation. 

By way of a brief but decisive starting point, I strongly counsel, with due respect, that the Nigerian Judiciary should remain apolitical; and I have support in the decision of the Court of Appeal in Gadi vs. Male, where it held that in a society which upholds the rule of law “as a way of life,” the Judiciary must be “apolitical.” Accordingly, that, where the issue before the court smacks of enormous political interplay, judicial pronouncements founded on the Judex’s personal conviction, if made part of the judgment, “would make the judiciary lose its authority and legitimacy.” 

The Supreme Court reiterated this stand in the case of INEC vs. Yusuf, where Peter-Odili, JSC, held as follows:

Without question, the court is enjoined to interpret statutes as they are without going outside it to bring in what the court would think was intended. I shall refer to some dicta of this court in that wise. See Obi v. INEC & Ors. (2007) LPELR-2166(SC); (2007) 11 NWLR (Pt. 1046) 560 at 543 paras. F-G wherein Aderemi, JSC put it admirably thus:

“The intention of the legislature, or put bluntly, the intention of [the] National Assembly at the federal level or the State House of Assembly at the State level, is not to be judged by what is in its mind but by its expression of that mind couched in words of the statute. If at the end of the interpretative exercise carried out on the provisions of statute or Constitution, a judex’s personal conviction as to where the justice and rightness of the matter lies is returned, that would make the judiciary lose its credibility and legitimacy….”

It is in the light of this cold reality of the Nigerian public and even the international community downgrading the respect for the Judiciary that I hereby urge, once again, a sober and even solemn rethink. This is just the stark truth! Et seq.

The Nigerian Judiciary should, barring some exceptions, apply the law as it is 

The Judiciary should always, save where the known exceptions apply, interpret electoral and other laws as they are, under the literal rule of interpretation. Thus, if the Electoral Act of any year has not provided for any situation or has not addressed any issue, the Judiciary should not, through judicial legislation, fill in the gap. Also, if a previous provision in an Electoral Act is omitted in a subsequent Electoral Act, the courts must not attempt to fill the gap, in the guise that it was a mistake made by the Legislature. Thus, in Action Congress vs. INEC, the Supreme Court was called upon to overrule the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2006, which terminated the power of INEC to disqualify candidates. That Court, per Onnoghen, JSC (as he then was), held on pages 275-276 that the lawmaking powers of the Federation resided in the Legislature and not the Judiciary; hence the latter lacked power to amend, add to or subtract from those provisions. His lordship concluded thus:

In the instant case, the legislature thought it right and proper, and for good reason, to take away the powers of the respondent to disqualify candidates earlier granted it by the very legislature. I hold the considered view that it would be improper, nay illegal, for this court to read into either the Act or Constitution what is clearly not stated therein just to allow the respondent to continue to exercise power that no longer belongs to it by express enactment. If the legislature feels that it made a mistake by omitting the provision in subsection (8) of section 21 in the Electoral Act, 2006, it is its duty to amend the law.

I have nothing to add.

The Nigerian Judiciary must remain an impartial arbiter, no matter the so called ‘political interests’ involved

The Judiciary, in order to properly guide Nigeria through the electoral process and then enrich its jurisprudence and ultimately sustain our hard-earned democracy, must remain neutral in all cases and situations, including the so called high profile political matters. The apex Court captured this in the case of Tafida vs. FRN, per Aka’ahs, JSC, thus:

In order to engender confidence in the people, the judiciary must be seen to be neutral in its decisions and must at all times act as the blindfold[ed] maiden who holds the scales of justice evenly to ensure that no party has unnecessary advantage over the other and the state of equilibrium is tilted by the weight of evidence put forward by a party.

In the earlier decision of Okotie-Eboh vs. Manager, the apex Court had explained this mystery of the blindfolded woman thus:

Justice is often depicted as a blindfolded woman with a sword in one hand and a scale on the other hand. Those who are called to mete out justice are not blindfolded. They can see with their two eyes and reason with their head. In the application of the law to meet the end of justice it is important to recognize that men and women now live in a dynamic society and the interpretation of the provision of any statute should mirror the societal accentuation of the society and understanding of the nature of man or woman.

The Nigerian Judiciary must resist inordinate requests for ex parte or so called ‘urgent’ orders

Litigants qua lawyers, especially in the pursuit of electoral justice or contrived electoral justice, rush to court and secure, many at times, orders that upon proper consideration, ought not to have been made. This, too, should be discouraged; and the body to do that is the Judiciary. Thus, after decrying entertainment of speculative suits, the Supreme Court held in Nworka vs. Ononeze-Madu, firmly as follows:

Borrowing from the wisdom of the lower court in its ruling of 2nd November, 2004 in respect of this appeal, per Monica Boln’an Dongban-Memsen, JCA, at page 132/273 of the supplementary record of appeal:

“The judiciary must insulate and protect itself and the society from the impatience of litigants who seek judicial orders at all cost. the rule of law must be upheld at all times and only when proper procedures are observed and upheld can the rule of law subsist.”

Let us all remember the “Association for Better Nigeria” (ABN) inglorious days of the late Arthur Nzeribe, where conflicting ex parte orders destroyed the fledging democratic experiment of 1993! History, they say, has a way of repeating itself! Let us be ware!

Nigerian Judiciary must always ensure and enforce internal democracy in political parties

Where a court of law is not deprived of substantive/subject matter and or territorial jurisdiction, it should, without fear or favour, compel, through sound and unbiased judicial decisions, political parties to ensure internal democracy within their ranks, which will further deepen our electoral system and democracy. The Supreme Court drove home this point in the case of Abubakar vs. Buhari, while voiding an illegal substitution of the candidate who won the primary election with the preferred candidate of the leaders of the concerned political party, in the following words: 

It is once again necessary to reiterate the fact that political parties must embrace internal democracy if our democratic process is to yield the desired outcome of a government of the people, for the people and by the people. Charity begins at home. Political parties cannot continue to act in brazen disregard of their own constitution and guidelines, as well as the Electoral Act and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as altered), in the conduct of its affairs and expect such acts to be endorsed by the courts. The essence of our democratic process is that the people are allowed the freedom to choose their representatives at every level of governance. A political party has no right to impose its will on its members. Let there be an even playing field and let the chips fall where they may. As we have stated over and over again, while it is true that the choice and sponsorship of a candidate for election is the internal affair of the party, which the courts ordinarily have no right to interfere with, a narrow window has been provided by section 84(14) of the Electoral Act 2022 (previously section 87(9) of the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended) to grant an aspirant who participated in the election in issue, the right to approach the court for redress where the provisions of the Electoral Act, 1999 Constitution, as amended, or the party’s constitution and guidelines have not been complied with in the choice of candidate. [Emphasis ours]

Similarly, the Supreme Court held in Uba vs. Moghalu that when persons holding high offices in political parties feel too powerful to be governed or controlled by the party constitution and guidelines and consequently produce the result of a primary election which never took place/which allegedly took place but not within the prescribed time and party rules, then this is recipe for anarchy in the body polity of Nigeria. Kekere-Ekun, JSC, once again echoed loudly on pages 311-312 thus:

The law is quite settled that political parties must obey their constitution, guidelines and regulations. In A.P.C. v. Karfi & Ors. (2017) LPELR – 47024(SC) @ 33 – 34 A – A; (2017) 16 NWLR_(Pt. 1592)_ 457. His Lordship, Okoro, J.S.C. held, inter alia:

“The era of recklessness and impunity by political parties is over, it is an aspect of corruption for a political party to disobey Its constitution and guidelines in order to impose candidates on the electorate. This court has taken a firm stand that this must stop. It is in the interest of our nation that political parties observe internal democracy for the smooth running of our democratic process.” 

In my concurring judgment in Mato v. Hember & Ors. (2017) LPELR – 42765 (SC) @ 51 A – C; (2017) 6 SC (Pt. VI) 161; (2018) 5 NWLR (Pt. 1612) 258, I opined thus: 

“The only way our democratic dispensation can work effectively is where an aspirant for political office, who is qualified to contest an election, is given an even playing field. The failure of internal democracy within our political parties right from the grassroot level eventually leads to instability in the entire political system. The failure of internal democracy is one of the reasons why the courts dockets are congested with pre-election disputes.

What more do we have to say? The dicta above and in many more decisions not captured here show once again that, by enforcing internal democracy within political party structures, the Nigerian Judiciary is directly or indirectly exerting positive impact on the entire democratic process in Nigeria. No judicial posturing could be better in this respect! 

Nigerian Judiciary owes Nigeria a duty to stop forum shopping

Forum shopping has been defined as the practice of a litigant choosing the most favourable court in which his matter or cause may be entertained or adjudicated upon. This definition alone is demeaning and disgusting enough!

Such litigants, intent on pulling a fast one on their opponents, claim that Rules of Superior Courts of Record in Nigeria allow this – when such Rules do not confer jurisdiction on the courts with such potentially favourable disposition to them. Courts of law, led by the Supreme Court, have seriously deprecated this sharp practice, but both the Bar and the Bench are far from putting an end to it, much to the consternation and astonishment of many. 

Such bold attempt to circumvent justice was made in Mailantarki vs. Tongo, where it was argued that, since the Civil Procedure Rules of the FCT High Court provided that a suit could be filed where one of the defendants resides, this donated jurisdiction to the FCT High Court over a pre-election matter that arose in Gombe State. In dismissing these arguments, Eko, JSC, who delivered the lead judgment of the apex Court, held quite unassailably on pages 85-86 thus:

Let me quickly deal with the argument of the learned senior counsel to the effect that, by dint of Order 9 rule 4(1) and Order 22 rule 5 of the FCT High Court (Civil Procedure) rules, the FCT High Court can exercise jurisdiction over the cause of action that arose in Gombe State. The law is settled that the jurisdiction of a court of record, in its broad and substantive sense, cannot be conferred by the rules of court. The rules of court are only made, pursuant to the powers conferred on the heads of courts by the [Constitution to make rules, to regulate practice and procedure in their respective courts. The rules they make are only to regulate the practice and procedure in their respective courts. The rules do not confer jurisdiction on the court to entertain causes or matters. Rather, the jurisdiction of courts in Nigeria is either conferred for vested by the Constitution or the enabling statute establishing the court. This is my understanding of the dictum of Obaseki, JSC in Clement v. Iwuanyanwu (1989) 4 SC (Pt. II) 89; (1989) 3 NWLR (Pt.107) 39 on the question whether rules of court confer substantive jurisdiction on the court they relate to. My answer, therefore, to the submission of the appellant’s senior counsel on this, is that the FCT High Court does not derive any jurisdiction from its rules of practice and procedure to entertain any cause or matter, the dispute in respect of which arose in Gombe State or any other place outside the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. It is my considered view that the jurisdiction vested in the FCT High Court by section 257(1) of the 1999 constitution to hear and determine any civil proceedings in which the existence or extent of a legal right, power, duty, liability, privilege, interest, obligation or claim is in issue is only to the extent of the disputes that arise within the territory of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. In Rivers State Government & Anor v. Konsult (Swedish Group) (supra), the poignant statement of the law, relevant and very material to our federal structure, is that a court in one State of the federation does not have jurisdiction to hear and determine a matter either exclusively within the jurisdiction of another state or which arose within the territory of another State. No court in any state, including the FCT High Court, has extra territorial jurisdiction.

His Noble lordship even came down harder on the perpetrators of this heinous judicial misdeed, in the later case of Pali vs. Abdu, thus:

The appellant attempted, unsuccessfully, to “steal” nomination as the candidate of the APC for Alkaleri/Kirfi Federal Constituency, in Bauchi State. He was checkmated. The suit, culminating in this appeal is one of the ploys politicians use, clearly an abuse of court’s process, to hoodwink the courts to endorse the illegalities they perfect in the field. But it should be drummed to every ear that the court, as the last hope of a common man, should not be conversely turned to be the last hope of the corrupt and desperate politicians seeking to wield power by all means. I notice the cause of action in this matter arose in Federal Constituency of Bauchi State Alkaleri/Kirfi on 7th December, 2014. Like in Dalhatu v. Turaki (2003) 15 NWLR (Pt. 843) 310; (2003) 7 SC 1, in which the cause of action also arose in Jigawa State; the appellant herein chose to come to Abuja FCT, as forum convenient, to litigate, in what appears to to be “forum shopping”, the practice that was very seriously decried in Dalhatu v. Turaki (supra). Taking into consideration all the offensive antics of the appellant leading to the commencement of the proceedings and till date, I should think an award of Two Million (N2,000,000.00) Naira as costs to each set of respondents will substantially indemnify them for the costs thrown away. Accordingly, I hereby order the appellant to pay to each set of respondents N2,000.000.00 as costs.

From the above authorities, forum shopping occurs, mainly, when a litigant leaves the State where the cause of action arose to institute his matter in another State of the Federation or the FCT Abuja, a practice the Supreme frowns at as being “highly reprehensible,” resulting in any affected matter being struck out for want of territorial jurisdiction and abuse of process.  

Forum shopping also occurs when each of the parties approaches different courts seeking the same reliefs, in which case the court will hold the latter suit as an abuse of process. Forum shopping would be held to also have occurred when there is a pending matter before the High Court and then a subsequent Election is filed at an Election Tribunal over the same subject matter.

Similarly, when an aggrieved person files an election petition challenging the election of his opponent and the petition is finally determined against him by the highest court that hears and determines appeals emanating from such an election, it will amount to forum shopping which translates to a gross abuse of process for him to file a fresh suit at the High Court, seeking to nullify the candidature of that his opponent. 

Noble law lords, I urge you with the highest level of humility, to resist, henceforth, any attempt by litigants qua Lawyers, especially in the political turf, to shop for so called favourable judicial fora, for the adjudication of their disputes. Again, I say that the definition of this inglorious term (namely, that it means a litigant seeking a favourable court or panel to institute his suit) is more than demeaning! We all must resist this with all our vigour, Noble law lords!  

Nigerian Judiciary must respect and uphold amendments introduced by the Legislature to extant Electoral Laws

Law is dynamic, and so is our global society. Laws are always changed or altered, to suit prevailing socioeconomic and political changes. Ditto our Electoral Laws; and the courts, in order to keep pace with the moving train of such changes, must move along – since the Judiciary is only involved in the interpretation of law and not law making.

In Ararume vs. INEC, it was argued before the Court of Appeal that the then recently-promulgated section 34 of the Electoral Act, 2006, was merely cosmetic and barren, without any legal sanctions for breach. The court was tacitly urged to disregard it. The Court of Appeal disagreed but nevertheless suggested that the legislature should take the further step of stipulating sanctions. In an admirable fashion, Adekeye, JCA (as he then was), who delivered the lead judgment of that Court, held quite admirably on pages 156-157 thus:

In our democratic system of government the 1999 Constitution [in] section 6(6) vests the adjudicatory role on the judiciary. Interpretation of statute is an indispensable aspect of adjudication. It is not unusual to be guided or persuaded by historical facts culminating into the promulgation of certain laws in their interpretation for the comprehension of their subject-matter. This has followed the footsteps of the legislators who in their role as lawmakers have been guided by history of past events in promulgating laws to correct the mischief meant to be cured by such legislation.  The court cannot but take judicial notice, informed by the plethora of authorities in our law reports on how the process of sponsorship, nomination and substitution of candidates were abused by indiscriminate and arbitrary changes in the past electoral exercise. I am most sure that section 31 was promulgated and inserted into the 2006 Electoral Act to curb the excesses of political parties. This is a welcome change as we cannot continue to play hanky-panky in our electoral process.

The Nigerian Judiciary must rescue itself from itself: Conflicting judgments and sitting on appeal against decisions of courts of coordinate jurisdiction must stop

In PDP vs. Lawal, the apex Court emphasised the equality of the three arms of government – the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary – but also made a statement that should elicit an awakening on the part of the Judiciary: that the Judiciary should not be tyrannical or arbitrary, even against itself! Salauwa, JSC, who delivered the lead judgment intoned thus:

The powers accorded the judiciary under section 6 of the Constitution are very far-reaching. Indeed, section 6 taken together with other provisions of the Constitution are collectively a safeguard to the individual against unwholesome arbitrariness, whether on the part of the Executive, the Legislature or even the Judiciary itself.

This then first takes me to the ugly area of courts dishing out conflicting judgments. In this regard I have to boldly but humbly admonish that my Noble law lords, nay, the entire Nigerian Judex, should abide by the wise counsel cum caution by the Supreme Court in the case of FRN vs. Nwosu, as thus:

The foregoing is a graphic demonstration of the essence of precedents in jurisdictions that observe them. They provide stability and certainty in the development of the law. Seemingly lazy and deliberate wrong appreciation of the ratio decidendi in an earlier decision which binds a court results in conflicting judgments on the same issue the attendant effect of which is… a disturbed and distorted development of the law.

Similarly, in PDP vs. Okorocha, the apex Court held that it amounts to “an act of disservice to the administration of justice” if a court closes its eyes to a previous judgment and decides otherwise; and that this would make the law “uncertain.” And in N.I.W.A. vs. S.P.D.C.N. Ltd., the Supreme Court linked failure to follow judicial precedents to anarchy in the judicial sector, thus:

There is no doubt that the principle of stare decisis is well entrenched in our jurisprudence and has helped to bring certainty to our laws as espoused by the courts; else there would be confusion and anarchy in the judicial process. 

What happens to the Nigerian body polity when there is “anarchy in the judicial process” can only be imagined! We should avoid such like a plague! 

However, not even our revered Supreme Court is spared by this affliction! While this paper will not extend to discussion on the details of such unworthy happenstance in the hallowed Chambers of the citadel of the Judiciary, I will speak, brevi manu, to my immediate audience on what to do when two or more judgments of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal conflict. 

When a court other than the Supreme Court is faced with two or more conflicting judgments of the Supreme Court, it is bound to follow the latter or latest of those judgments. On the other hand, the Court of Appeal (and, consequently, the High Court) is bound by its previous decision or decisions. Thus, in Osho vs. Foreign Finance Corp., the Supreme Court held inter alia that “the Court of Appeal is bound by its previous judgments” and those of the Supreme Court.

Finally, it is settled law that Judges of the High Court have equal powers and exercise coordinate jurisdiction. The following courts have also been held to be of coordinate jurisdiction:

The High Court and the Lands Tribunal.

A State High Court and the FCT High Court.

A State High Court and the National Industrial Court.

The same Court sitting in two or morevdistinct Judicial Divisions.

Consequently, no such Judge has power to sit on his judgment or review the judgment of another Judge of coordinate jurisdiction.

However, a person affected by any decision of a court can approach the same court or another court of coordinate and competent subject matter and territorial jurisdiction to set it aside for want of jurisdiction, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.

CONCLUSION

The Nigerian Judiciary occupies a very high and decisive place in the scheme of things in our democracy. The Judex should, please, note that rightly or wrongly, unprecedented searchlight has been beamed on the Nigerian Judiciary, especially in its efforts to sustain and deepen our democracy; hence, even though they have been doing fairly well, should do better.

I hereby repeat that may that day never come when the informed and the uninformed Nigerian will rise up in arms against us! May that day never come!

But we must also up our game. To say that this be done urgently is an understatement! May this never fall on deaf ears! I so pray o Lord!

Thanks; and God bless us all.

Chief Sebastine Hon , SAN, FCIArb., DSSRS

sebashon@yahoo.comhonsebas@gmail.com

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