Imo guber: Danger ahead for Nigerian Judiciary, civil society groups warn

By Chesa Chesa

A civil society coalition, the Alliance for Preservation of Democracy (ADP) has warned of great danger ahead in Nigeria’s judiciary owing to surprise judgement of the Supreme Court last week, which sacked then Imo State governor, Emeka Ihedioha, and replaced him with his opponent, Hope Uzodinma.

The Alliance, during a press conference on Sunday in Abuja, said that while the judgement remains curious and absurd, it was at a loss on how the apex court can adequately explain its decision that has gone against its own precedence.

Represented at the conference were Mr. Igho Akeregha, President of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO); Mr. Ugochukwu Ezekiel, Co-founder of Center Against Brutality and for Safety of Journalist in Africa (CABSOJA); Mr. Lemmy Ughegbe, of Make A Difference Initiative (MAD); and Mr. Ibiang Livinus, Vice Chairman Model Leadership Foundation (MLF).

The group noted that while there was no evidence to show that any of the Justices of the Court was compromised in the course of hearing the case, it was not unmindful of the subtle arm twisting of senior judicial officers by the Executive as witnessed in the midnight raid of some of their residences in 2016.

Mr. Lemmy Ughegbe, declared that the conduct of some judicial officers lately makes it necessary to conclude that the nation’s judiciary was in dire need of a lobotomy – surgical operation on the brain.

Ughegbe said that “our country stands at a dangerous judicial crossroad, which if not urgently addressed will erode the values of reprieve, justice and faith in the very institution that ordinarily should stand above the vagaries of politics and compromise.

“This press conference is not wholly about the shocking and Tsunamic judgment of the Apex Court on the Imo governorship appeal, rather the general decay in the judiciary and why it should be arrested for our collective good.

“Today, judgments are more political than judicial. Judges are ruled by fear of what could befall them if they act contrary to the famed ‘body language’ of those that wield executive powers. It is in this sense that we are concerned. We challenge all Nigerians to come together and seek for ways to save the judiciary from self-destruct.

“It is still a waiting game to see how the Supreme Court will explain its historical ruling on the Imo gubernatorial contest owing to its obvious somersault on legal precedents it had established prior to the curious judgment of Tuesday, January 14, 2020.

“We are not unmindful that right from the moment security operatives, in Gestapo manner, laid siege to the homes of judges and thereafter the grave assault in the removal of the Justice Walter Onnoghen, judges across the country are in great peril, therefore wont to pander to some interests. The reason is because some of them are mired in conduct unbecoming of judicial officers, therefore, susceptible to blackmail by agents of State.”

While calling on Nigerians to stand up in defence of the nation’s judiciary, Ughegbe implored the Supreme Court to discharge its responsibility and not pander to any sentiments in the remaining political cases before it.

His words: “It is about time that Nigerians stand in defence of the judiciary as it serves as the last bastion of safety, decency and guardian of the rule of law. For too long have Nigerians shirked their duty of rallying behind a key arm of government that needs to be shielded from the vagaries of the other two arms. If we allow the judiciary and judicial officers to continual be muddied and bullied, then we should all count ourselves lost.

“As things are, judicial officers must embark on soul searching while we as citizens – corporate or otherwise – must work to insulate the judiciary from the grievous assault of those determined to upend our democracy and cast a cloud over our common destiny.

“It is our expectation that as the Apex Court moves to deliver judgments on other pending appeals, it will stand on firm footing and not be swayed by any sentiment other than justice for the common good.”

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