Law News
All eyes on judges

A direction where surprises can spring from as far as the conduct of elections and their outcomes are concerned is the judiciary.

As Nigerians expect the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct the rescheduled general election on March 28 and April 11, 2015, they are also paying close attention to a number of highly sensitive political suits pending before various courts.

Between January 26, 2015, the first working day after judiciary workers suspended their three-week-old strike in federal courts, and middle of February 2015, at least 10 cases had been filed asking for disqualification of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), over his inability to submit his evidence of his academic qualifications to INEC.

Within the same period, two cases were filed against President Goodluck Jonathan’s eligibility to seek re-election. There are three others seeking the same prayers now pending before the Court of Appeal in Abuja.

Also, within the same period, there are two confirmed suits challenging the use of card readers and exclusive use of the Permanent Voter Cards for the conduct of the forthcoming polls.

The plaintiffs in one of the suits filed before Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court in Abuja on January 26, 2015, are asking for, among other prayers, the postponement of the elections “until the Permanent Voter Cards are made available to the plaintiffs.”

The other suit is praying for, among others, an order restraining INEC from using card readers for the conduct of the forthcoming polls and another order mandating INEC to allow “every willing Nigerian who has any voter card issued by INEC to vote at the general elections.”

More of such cases might have been filed or will still be filed within the time allowed before the elections hold.

The cases, certainly, constitute an invitation to the judiciary to make pronouncements which can make or break the nation’s democratic process and invariably helping to achieve some segments of the motley intentions of the promoters of such suits.

This is when to appreciate the warning handed down by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, to judicial officers while recently inaugurating 242 election petitions tribunal judges that are to handle disputes emanating from the 2015 elections.

“Let me use this opportunity to sound a note of warning to all judicial officers. Do not allow any political party or politician to compromise your integrity or your future. We must never again be used as tools to truncate our nation’s democracy,” the CJN had sternly warned.

Justice Mohammed’s warning infused new life into the memory of the order made by the late Justice Bassey Ikpeme, then of the Abuja High Court, on June 10, 1993, stopping the June 12, 1993 presidential election.

Though, the then National Electoral Commission went ahead with the election as scheduled, on June 15, while results of the election were still being counted and released, the then Chief Judge of Abuja, Justice Mohammed Saleh, ordered NEC to stop the announcement of the results.

The two judgments later became part of the justification by the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida-led military regime to annul the poll adjudged to have been the most credible in the nation’s history.

The huge price paid to return to democracy in 1999 is part of the nation’s history which the judge of nowadays must learn from.

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