Intersociety to CJN, PCA: Protect Judiciary from ‘dictatorial interference’



A rights group, International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, (Intersociety) has petitioned the Chairman of National Judicial Commission (NJC), Justice Mahmud Mohammed and the President of Court of Appeal, Justice ZainabAdamuBulkachuwa, to save the nation’s judiciary from dictatorial executive interference.

In the petition (Ref: Intersociety/NG/11/015/001/NJC/ABJ), dated November 2, 2015 and signed by Barrister Emeka Umeagbalasi,the group cited the processes and outcomes of Akwa Ibom and Rivers States’ governorship election petition tribunal and the continued detention of leader of Indigenous People of Biafra, NnamdiKanu, as worrisome developments that could trigger civil strife in the country.

Copies of the petition were sent the President, General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki; Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara; the National Security Adviser (NSA) Major General Babagana Monguno (retd) and the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmud Yakubu.

While calling for judicial reviews of the tribunal and the extra-judicial detention of Kanu, Intersociety recalled how it “had in 2011 intervened during a major crisis of integrity that hit the country’s highest judicial echelon, called Salami/Alu Gate or scandal.”

It said the intervention was through a letter to then Deputy Chairman of NJC, Hon Justice Dahiru Musdapher.

It went on, “Today, the integrity of the Nigeria’s judicial arm is again under a serious threat particularly over the roles of some judges in 2015 election judicial reviews with specific reference to Rivers and Akwa Ibom States’ Governorship judicial petitions.

“There is also a serious threat to the independence of the judiciary occasioned by rapacious and reckless executive meddlesomeness via its coercive agencies in electoral judicial proceedings with clear intent to arrest, corrupt and influence their judgments to favour their paymasters.

“For the first time in the history of democracy in Nigeria, top officials of INEC, including State Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC), have been arrested, detained, tortured and possibly coerced into recanting their original signatures appended on sensitive election result documents.”

Intersociety alleged that the arrest, detention, torture and forced recanting were solely carried out by the Department of Security Services ( DSS) during the proceedings of concerned electoral matters in the electoral tribunals (i.e. Rivers and AkwaIbom states).

“Some members of electoral tribunals have also spoken out and disclosed publicly their ordeals in the hands of the DSS in the course of their membership or chairmanship of election petitions tribunals.
It pointed out that the situation was exacerbated by “a steady manifestation of dictatorial tendencies in the conducts of the executive arm of government since 29th May 2015 when the present federal executive arm was brought to power.”

Intersociety continued: “Issues of election petition cases and their processes are purely judicial affair involving the plaintiffs, respondents and INEC officials who are constitutionally and statutorily protected from coercive harassment and threats of any kind by security agencies including the DSS.

“The DSS has no moral and legal justifications to (be) involved in such matters even if invited by a desperate ruling or opposition party. It is morally, legally and constitutionally abominable!”

Intersociety reminded the eminent judicial officers how “the AkwaIbom and Rivers States’ Governorship Petitions Tribunals had on 22nd and 24th October 2015 respectively, annulled the two governorship elections under circumstances considered by many as controversial and federal executive-influenced.”

“While the entire governorship election of Rivers State was annulled, that of AkwaIbom State affected 18, out of the State’s 31 Local Government Areas. Events leading to the two nullifications were far from being devoid of controversy and executive brigandage.

“The bases upon which the nullifications were premised have also raised serious controversies with formidable and independent legal pundits pointing out gross incoherence or inconsistencies of the two verdicts with the relevant provisions of the Electoral Act of 2010 and most recent decided cases such as legality of the electoral card readers and their basis for nullification of election by an electoral tribunal,” Intersociety asserted.

The civil rights group referred the NJC Chairman and PCA to the narratives of Hon Justice MuazuPindigi on his ordeals at the hands Of DSS, noting that the judge was the second sacked Chairman of the Rivers State Governorship Tribunal who was quoted as saying that “Two weeks before I was removed as chairman of the Tribunal, I got a call from an unknown number, asking for an appointment for us to meet in Kaduna.”

The group therefore prayed the CJN and PCA “to carefully watch over the appellate and apex proceedings of 2015 elections petitions particularly those of the Rivers and AkwaIbom State Governorship Petitions and ensure that they are handled impartially and credibly.”

It added: “We also demand from and call upon Your Lordships to cause a firm and stern inter-arms protest letter to be openly or administratively addressed to the head of the federal executive arm, President MuhammaduBuhari, advising him to call his coercive establishments particularly the DSS to order and desist from meddling into the independence and affairs of the Judiciary particularly as they affect the judicial handling of election petitions in Nigeria or any part thereof.

“The letter should also contain a call on the executive arm to desist from involving in conducts capable of plunging the country and its democracy into anarchy. The executive arm must be told in unmistakable terms to obey the order of the Abuja Municipal Magistrate Court, in Wuse Zone 2, by releasing Citizen Nnamdi Kanu immediately and desist from further detaining citizens under conditions and circumstances clearly incoherent and inconsistent with the 1999 Constitution and principles of the rule of law.”

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