Foundation for Environmental Rights Advocacy and Development, FENRAD, a pro-democracy and Human rights Advocacy organization has observed with dismay the recent court orders and counter orders, in the form of exparte motions, from courts of coordinates jurisdiction that recently overwhelmed political parties’ internal leadership election process within the nation.
FENRAD is aware of the summonses by the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Tanko Muhammad and the National Judicial Commission, NJC on six judges of the High Courts in six affected states within the federation and regrets why justice appears to be a “cash and carry” affair among political actors and gladiators with judges more than willing to deliver the “deliverables.”
The development, as bad as it is, is capable of truncating the democratic process with attendant apathy if, for example, judgements delivered fail to meet public and general expectation of the electorate.
The states of Imo, Rivers, Kebbi, Jigawa and others have become the latest flashpoints of perceived transactional justice with the courts playing a seeming partisan or bias roles in the interest of conflicting parties while truncating and subverting justice in the main. In Imo State, for example, many within the electorate are yet to process the outcome of the Supreme Court judgement (report?) which declared a fourth-placed candidate winner using nullified votes the electoral commission – INEC – had earlier dismissed. Vertically and hierarchically downward, there is hardly a level of the court system without blemish in this regard, FENRAD laments.
Recently, a Port Harcourt-based High Court, through its injunction, restrained Mr. Uche Secondus, chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP from acting as the party’s chairman. Against the status quo, another court of coordinate jurisdiction (High Court, that is) in Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State vacated the position of the Port Harcourt-based court only for a Calabar-based court to declare again that Secondus remains suspended. In all this, not only the “Chairman’s” faction or support base is affected but the entire party and by extension the state and federation. It is so because political parties are the bedrock of internal democracy and to a very large extent the platform for leadership selection. The development is not only relative to the PDP but to almost other parties, the most striking being Anambra State where gubernatorial election is slated for November 6, 2021.
In Anambara, territorial and extraterritorial court orders had rocked the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA over the choice of party chairman and gubernatorial candidate. Nobody knows as of yet the situation of things with the ruling APC where the Governor Buni-led caretaker committee and its legality had recently been challenged. While this issue rocked internal democracy boat of parties across the federation, the court, by availing its instrumentality to this end, betrays the platitude of “last hope of the common man” or “defender of democracy”. Matters seem endlessly litigable while judges appear scrupulously bribable. It worries FENRAD!
Mandamuses, injunctions (both perpetual and interlocutory) have inundated the political space from get-go of 1999 return to civil rule. With this, for no just reason, becoming the order of the day, a negative foreshadowing is cast on the political future of the nation as 2023 beckons, FENRAD cries out. At this rate, stare decisis (the precedential effects) of matters would soon be jettisoned for what is not normal. FENRAD condemns a system where the pendency of pre-election matters has resulted in alteration of political calendar when such matters could have been concluded before elections. Post-election matters are themselves not entirely different.
FENRAD calls on the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, the National Judicial Council, NJC, to do the needful so that the bench and the bar remain sacrosanct. With this Faustian deal unchecked, the place of the court could easily be reduced to an emporium of merchandising and marketing justice as some tradable item. The basis of justice, FENRAD says, should not be transactional but by merit.
Comrade Nelson Nnanna Nwafor
Barr. Olusegun Bamgbose
Head Legal Team