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Nigerian judiciary and the growing confusion

Judiciary

Recent rulings and judgments coming from the Nigerian judiciary have largely left more people confused than clearing doubts about cases brought before the temples of justice.

In many ways, Nigerians are at a loss over the litany of conflicting judgments that have come out of court rooms lately.

The recent judgment of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, sacking Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu and ordering the immediate swearing in of Uche Ogah, brought the conflicts to mind the more.

On Friday, the political imbroglio in Abia State, occasioned by judicial pronouncements, became even more confusing as two courts of coordinate jurisdiction gave conflicting judgments, further increasing tension in the state.

A Federal High Court sitting in Owerri, Imo State, on Friday declared Ikpeazu as bonafide occupier of the Office of Governor of the state, while dismissing the suit brought before it by Mr Nwosu, another governorship aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

The presiding judge also ruled that the tax certificates presented by Governor Ikpeazu were genuine and not forged.

In the same breath, another Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, and actually the one that sacked Ikpeazu, insisted that the sacking of the governor remains until the judgment delivered by it is vacated by a court of higher jurisdiction.

Read also: Abia: Go to Appeal Court and argue your case, court turns back Ikpeazu, Ogah

It would be recalled that Justice Okon Abang of the Abuja Federal High Court, which sacked Ikpeazu, had premised his decision on the falsification of the tax certificates presented by the governor. These same certificates have been declared genuine and authentic by another Federal High Court.

Prior to Friday’s obvious conflicting rulings, an Abia State High Court sitting in Osisioma, issued a contrary order, countering Justice Abang’s June 24 judgment, restraining the state’s Chief Judge from swearing Ogah in as governor.

In another curious development, when the parties to the suit went back to Justice Abang’s court, the judge insisted that the enrollment order he gave Ogah was not enforceable, thereby creating confusion as to what should be done in the case.

Abang has however directed both men to go to the Appeal Court to argue their cases.

Another classic example of the confusion that currently pervades the polity is the different court pronouncements on the leadership crisis rocking the PDP.

The factions in the party have been obtaining judgments from different courts from Lagos, to Abuja to Port Harcourt, with both sides insisting they have valid judgments, and as such won’t back down.

The embattled National Chairman of the party, Ali Modu Sheriff, boasts of no less than three orders of different courts recognising him as the head of the opposition party, while the Ahmed Makarfi led Caretaker Committee also has similar orders recognising it and declaring Sheriff as validly removed.

These judgments are from courts of coordinate jurisdiction and none has been vacated, yet new orders are obtained from other courts contradicting those already given.

The era of conflicting judgments was flagged off by elections tribunals with their conflicting judgments on governorship petitions where elections were upheld and dismissed.

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The tribunals, while interpreting the legality of the use of card readers for the accreditation of voters by INEC, upheld the election of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State, saying the non-usage or lack of substantial usage of the card readers were not enough grounds to nullify the election of the governor. This same sentiment was upheld by the Court of Appeal.

However, the elections of the governors of Rivers and Akwa Ibom states were nullified on the same ground of non-usage or lack
of substantial usage.

In the case of Senator Dino Melaye, the National Assembly election tribunal held that pre-election matters could not form the basis of petition by his challenger, Senator Smart Adeyemi. Adeyemi’s petition was subsequently thrown out.

However, the same pre-election matter formed the basis for the nullification of the election of Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State by the state’s governorship election tribunal.

The confusion at the moment is, which of the many conflicting orders are to be obeyed and which should be discarded without incurring the wrath of the courts, or being charged with contempt? Only the courts and their lordships can tell.

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