How protests may shape Supreme Court review of Imo and Bayelsa judgments

The recent Supreme Court governorship election judgment has elicited protests across the country including invasion of the private residence of Judges. MYKE UZENDU examines how this development will affect dispensation of justice.

Judicial independence is the crown of glory of every democratic system. The Supreme Court’s allegiance to the constitution and its concomitant determination to avoid political entanglements in its judgments is the highest point of separation of powers in a democracy.

However, the recent Supreme Court judgments in Imo and Bayelsa states have sparked protests in some states with a deafening clamour for the immediate review of the constitution, unbundling of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and a more urgent need to craft an electoral reform bill so that the entire gamut of electoral process could experience less human interference.

In the Imo State judgment for instance, the Supreme Court panel of justices led by Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, upheld the prayers of the candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Senator Hope Uzodimma, who prayed that he be declared winner and that excluded votes from 388 polling units be added to him irrespective of the fact that those votes were rejected by INEC.

The apex court in this instance turned blind eye to the fact that he total number of declared votes does not tally with the number of accredited voters. In the results declared by INEC, accredited voters were 823,743; total valid votes cast 714,355, rejected votes 25,130 while total number of votes cast were 739,485.

However, the apex court in its judgment added 213,699 votes from the 388 poling units to Uzodimmas’ 96,458 votes and declared him winner with a total vote of 310,153. But the major contention here is that the total votes cast in now 928,054 while total number of accredited voters for the election is still 823,743, which is inconsistent with the laws guiding the electoral process.

Also in Bayelsa state, the ruling APC described as arm twisting, the judgment that voided the election of David Lyon and his Deputy Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo over certificate forgery that affected only the running mate.

With this judgment, David Lyon has gone down as the first governor-elect who had his Certificate of Return withdrawn less than 12 hours to his swearing in ceremony, a victim of the worst judicial blow in history. This judgment sparked series of protest the high point of which was the invasion of the private residence of Justice Mary Odili in Abuja and Porthacourt.

PDP is not new to demonstrations. In October 2018, the party’s leadership embarked on a protest to INEC and Police Headquarters over the outcome of the Osun State governorship election demanding that PDP’s candidate, Ademola Adeleke, be declared winner and that INEC National Commissioner, Amina Zakari, a relative of President Buhari should resign.

PDP has since the days of the Imo judgment staged several protests across the states and Abuja including the United Nations Office (UN), European Union (EU), American Embassy, British High Commission and the Embassy of France.

The National Chairman of the Party, Prince Uche Secondus in one of the protests stressed the need that the Supreme Court revisits, review and reverses the Imo judgment.

“We in the PDP believe in the finality of the judgment of the Supreme Court. But we also believe that the Honorable Justices of the Supreme Court possess inherent right and powers to right every wrong that may be discovered in its judgment arising, as it were, from human errors such as happened in the Imo State judgment”.

In a petition submitted to the international community with the title “Perversion of Justice: Deliberate Efforts At Truncating Democracy in Nigeria”, the party told the international community, Supreme Court, as presently constituted under Justice Mohammed Tanko, has become heavily compromised; lost its credibility and is now annexed to execute ignoble agenda of the APC-led Federal Government against the Nigerian people.
“If the people no longer repose confidence in the Supreme Court, then our democracy, national cohesion and stability are at great risk” he said.

But The National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole berated PDP over constant resort to protest.

He said, “If we choose to question, on the streets of Nigeria, all of the impunity we have seen that have affected the APC negatively coming from our courts, there will be no peace anywhere. But we have said that somebody must bear the price of peace. That is why we choose to keep quiet. It doesn’t mean the PDP has any valid case”.

Just as the dust raised by the Imo judgment was about to settle, the Supreme Court released another bombshell that sacked David Lyon of the APC a few hours to his swearing in Bayelsa.

The judgment so rattled the APC that its National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole declared that no one will be sworn in as the next governor of Bayelsa state because according to him, the PDP candidate did not fulfill the required constitutional spread to be declared winner of the election.

One may not be wrong to assume that with the statement from the APC Chairman, supporters of the APC were let loose on the street the climax of which was the lockdown on the private residence of the Justice Mary Odili in Abuja and Porthacourt.

Meanwhile the PDP and APC have continued to trade blame over the protests, counter protests and intimidation of members of the bench, which may hamper them from performing their constitutional duties. The APC accused the opposition PDP and the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, of sponsoring the protest at the residence of a Supreme Court Justice, Mary Odili.

The APC’s Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Mr Yekini Nabena said the protesters were hired by the opposition PDP to deceive unsuspecting members of the public.

“The self-styled groups of the APC supporters were sponsored by the opposition to cast the APC governorship candidate, David Lyon, and the APC supporters in a bad light.

“The same hired urchins the PDP Chairman, Uche Secondus, has used for his senseless protests to the embassies of the UK, US and the European Union, were the same used for Tuesday’s protests at Justice Odili’s residence. The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, aside being the main financier of the PDP must explain his inexplicable interest in the governorship of Bayelsa State” Nabena said.

But in a swift reaction, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbodiyan, dismissed APC’s claims.

Ologbondiyan said, “It is surprising to us in the PDP, that the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, is still walking the streets free after his inciting comments on the judgment on the Bayelsa State governorship election in spite of the condemnable destruction of property of the government and leaders of our party in Bayelsa State.”

Meanwhile, the Rivers State Government also accused Oshiomhole, and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, of sponsoring thugs to attack the Abuja residence of Peter Odili.

But in his response, The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, debunked the claim by the Rivers State Governor, Wike, of his involvement in the protests that took place in the Odili residences, adding that Wike may have organised it only to hang it on the neck of APC chieftains.

Also commenting on the matter, the PDP Spokesperson added, “The PDP is aware that the APC is mortally afraid of the review as they know that duty beckons on the Supreme court to hand justice in the matter and give victory to the rightful winner.

“This is why the APC has resorted to blackmailing the judiciary and seeking ways to divert public attention from the issue at stake”.

One fact that cannot be ignored is that if security agencies allow protesters to continue to harass judicial officers and barge into their private residence without anyone being questioned, then they will have no choice than to consider their safety first before pronouncing any judgment. The recent development is very precarious and must be tamed at the bud else justices can no longer be dispensed at the courts and we all shall return to a state of nature where anarchy rules.

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