Following the Supreme Court judgments on governorship election petitions from the oil-rich Niger Delta states, the revered judges of the apex court have come under heavy attack by leaders and members of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. MIKE ODIAKOSE x-rays the import of these attacks on the judiciary.
The recent floodgate of the attacks on the judiciary by leaders of the All Progressives Congress, APC, was ignited by no lesser person than President Muhammadu Buhari himself in far away Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, when he slammed the judiciary for frustrating his previous attempt at the presidency. President Buhari went further to declare that the judiciary is the major headache he is having in his anti-graft war.
A statement issued by the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said Mr. Buhari stated Buhari bares his mind on the judiciary while speaking at a town hall meeting with Nigerians living in Ethiopia.
According to Adesina President Buhari said “On the fight against corruption vis-à-vis the judiciary, Nigerians will be right to say that is my main headache for now.”
President Buhari’s uncomplimentary remark on the judiciary appeared to be signal to other members of the APC to descend on the judiciary anytime court judgments did not go in their favour.
Following President Buhari’s footstep, the APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun lambasted judges of the Supreme Court for affirming the election PDP governors in Abia and Akwa Ibom with particular attention to that of Governor Oyesom Wike of Rivers state.
Reacting to the Supreme Court judgment, Odigie-Oyegun called for probe of the apex court judges for and dismissing the prayers of the APC governorship candidate, Dakuku Peterside who prayed for cancellation of judgment of the state election petition tribunal and for allowing the election of Governor Wike to stand.
Oyegun said: “There is obviously something fundamentally wrong in Rivers State which needs to be investigated and addressed. I still find the judgment on the Rivers State governorship election totally astonishing. There is something fundamentally wrong in the judiciary.”
However, Odigie-Oyegun let the cat out of the bag on why the APC is frustrated by the ruling of the Supreme Court on the oil-rich state when he said, “We have lost very important resource-rich states to the PDP. No matter how crude oil prices have fallen, it is still the most important revenue earner for the country.”
The APC leader came under heavy criticism for trying to ridicule the judiciary from concerned Nigerians from across the divide and had to make a hasty retreat and recant his comments when the bashing became unbearable for him.
A statement by the APC’s national secretary, Mala Buni, said a Thursday report by Vanguard titled, “Oyegun Calls for Probe of Supreme Court Judges” was false.
“The party wishes to deny this report in the strongest terms,” the statement said.
“As much as he expressed ‘total astonishment’ over the ruling of the Supreme Court, the National Chairman of the Party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, never called for the investigation of Supreme Court judges.”
Odigie-Oyegun’s denial of his attack on the Supreme Court judges did not stop the APC governorship candidate in Rivers State from towing the same line and accusing the apex court judges of compromise over the judgment they delivered on the Rivers governorship election.
Reacting to the judgment, Dakuku Peterside said he has it on good authority that Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike, had prior contacts with some of the judges of the Supreme Court before January 27th when the apex court upheld his election.
Speaking to newsmen in Port Harcourt the state capital Peterside said “Credible information confirmed that Nyesom Wike had earlier confessed to some persons of having met one of the justices of the supreme court in Mbaise during an important burial, another at Owerri in a hotel and yet others in Dubai and Saudi Arabia respectively. These Justices were in the panel that decided the matter in Wike’s favour.”he said
The APC governorship candidate further stated that while speaking at a thanksgiving service he held in the state on Sunday February 7th, Wike said the former governor of the state, Peter Odili and his wife, Justice Mary Odili, were his advisers regarding the Supreme Court case.
“It is therefore obvious that the decision of the supreme court on the Rivers state election was not a product of justice but rather a product of compromise and orchestrated contrivance to legalise electoral violence and rigging and, in turn, reward injustice. This calls for serious introspection by our Judiciary and judicial officers, “he said.
In Akwa Ibom state the situation is not different as the state chapter of the APC described the Supreme Court judgment as “weird, arbitrary and an inexplicable endorsement of violence and electoral fraud that was procured by the use of state power and resources for evil ends.”
In a statement released on Saturday 6th February 2015, by the State chairman of the party, Amadu Attai, the APC called on President Muhammadu Buhari to probe the hearing of the Akwa Ibom State Governorship Election Appeal and the judgment by the Supreme Court.
“We believe such inquiry is inevitable to address the possible consequences of the Supreme Court judgment which is bound to encourage resort to self help, violence and all forms of illegality and barbarity in the quest for power,” Amadu said.
The unprecedented attack on the judiciary by a political party has been roundly condemned by Nigerians. Reacting to President Buhari and APC leader’s attack on the Supreme Court judges, the Nigerian Bar Association condemned in strong terms the recent criticism of the judiciary saying it is an attempt to intimidate the judiciary which will not be tolerated.
Speaking at the valedictory session organised in honour of a retiring Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Mohammed Muntaka-Coomassie, NBA President, Augustine Alegeh, said the recent attack directed at the judiciary over the ongoing anti-corruption war was unacceptable.
“The NBA condemns in its entirety the generalisation and/or categorisation of the Judiciary as being corrupt and an impediment to the zero corruption policy of the present administration,” Mr. Alegeh said.
Also speaking at the event, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohamed, said the judiciary was duty bound to act in accordance with the dictates of the law, not that made by critics.
“The Nigerian Judiciary, though constantly striving to redress the wrongs and tilt the balance in favour of that which is right, has recently had to face the backlash of misguided opinions fashioned without due consideration of the law,” Mr. Mohammed said.
In their own reaction the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Zone B comprising South South and South East Nigeria, said the Association is “totally dissatisfied with such preposterous attacks which is lacking in basic political logic and legal back up.”
The Association declared that it has” learnt that the APC is only using the political brawl in the States to indirectly accentuate her inordinate and rapacious quest for the rich oil region of Akwa Ibom and Rivers State which has slept off her political sway.”
NAN noted that calling on Mr. President to probe the Supreme Court Verdict on Akwa Ibom and Rivers State elections is totally vile and practically uncalled for as it would only culminate to breach of Montesquieu’s theory of separation of power which the country has long adopted for years now.
“The Judiciary is an independent body that shouldn’t be interfered in her activities including court verdicts. May it be noted that any move by Mr. President to probe the Supreme Court judgment on the Rivers and Akwa Ibom State elections would amount to a major political inconsistency that is aberration to the political frame work of the country,” NAN said.
Also reacting to APC’s attack on judiciary a former spokesperson for ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr. Doyin Okupe, lambasted the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, for his recent comment against Supreme Court judgments and stressed that it was unfortunate that Odigie-Oyegun could lament PDP’s control of oil-producing states.
He said, “While Chief Odigie-Oyegun in his parochial and mercantile political effusion is beclouded by financial considerations, the respected judges of the Supreme Court must adjudicate on the principles of law, equity and justice.
He said, “When the chairman of the ruling party calls for the probe of Supreme Court justices due to an unfavourable ruling, it ridicules the anti-corruption war. We should all be good sportsmen like former President Jonathan and learn to accept defeat instead of calling for the probe of Supreme Court justices.
“Are you telling Nigerians the only reason you are in power is because of oil? And you are bold enough to threaten Supreme Court justices! Oil should not be the reason why you should lament losing a state and calling for the probe of our revered Supreme Court justices. First, President Buhari called the judiciary a headache now his party’s chairman threatens them with investigation. Are we safe”, Doyin Okupe asked.
Political observers are of the view that it is absolutely imperative that APC leaders retrace their steps from unwarranted attacks on the judiciary as this development may imperil democratic governance in the country. They are quick to remind the APC that when they were in the opposition they were the biggest benefactors of the reversal of election outcomes in the Court of Appeal but the then ruling party, PDP, took the decisions in good faith and never condescended to making a mockery of the judiciary.
The APC has also been advised to go through the appropriate channel to ventilate their grievances against any of the judges of the apex court through the National Judicial Council if they have any evidence that any of the judges compromised their office rather than media trial of the judicial officers.