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OPINION: The import of PEPT’s judgment



OPINION: Buhari’s presidency at Nigeria’s expense [1]

THERE are many implications in, and potential fall outs from, the judgment from the presidential election petition tribunal[PEPT] which was delivered one week ago, tomorrow. Virtually all the issues are already in the public domain.

Perhaps, the only surprise in the judgment that took almost all of the 180 days time frame as stipulated in the Constitution was that there was no surprise. Even before the petitionsof the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP], Allied Peoples Movement[APM] and the Labour Party [LP] was filed with the tribunal, an agent of a foreign government had said with an oracular finality that the petitions were dead before arrival.

And when the judges, I decline to call them justices, recessed to write their judgments, the floodgates of predictions were opened. Notable among the predictors of thefutility of the exerciseis the Economist Intelligence Unit [EIU], an arm of the London-based Economist newspaper. And then on the very eve of the delivery of the judgment, a retired Supreme Court judge weighed in. She virtually called the judgment in favour of the respondents. For an icing on the cake she showered praises and encomiums on two of the counsel who represented the principal respondents in the tribunal proceedings. She called them grandmasters in election petition cases who have earned their strips. Read-they have won again notwithstanding that the judgment had yet to be publicly delivered.

Invariably, she was so excited at the tone and tenor of the then ‘secret’ judgment that she was carried away and could not hold back the joy of victory. Up until that time she spoke and celebrated victory and congratulated the winners, many Nigerians did not know that she was a party to the litigation. The event where she exhibited her idolatrousproclivity was not organizedfor the counsel of the President, Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu. It was for another senior lawyer who was not known publicly to be part of the famous or infamous Tinubu Presidential Legal Team [TPLT].

The TPLT has just been discovered to have its fingerprints all over the certified true copies of the judgment, an indication of ownership of the document.It should be noted that two of the Tinubu defence attorneys were not the only senior lawyers at the event. That made their identification by name and subsequent shower of praises by the former Supreme Court judge an act of idolatry and masturbation.

In some other climes, this judge should by now be answering questions for what appears to give the semblance of influence peddling and insider dealings. In business it’s called insider trading-the act of unauthorizedinsider knowledgewhich is used to confer personal benefits directly to yourself or indirectly through someone else. But this judge had while in active service been seen by some Nigerians as being above board.

Whether the public perception of her had been correct or not may be immaterial at this moment.What to note is that Nigeria is globally perceived as corrupt. We have been stuck at the bottom rung of the annual Transparency International’s [TI] Corruption Perception Index [CPI]for decades. Judicial corruption has been one of the reasons why we have remained in the bottom of the TI ladder. This judge who indulged in vulgar gloating over a judgment that was supposed to beasecret, and of which panel she was not a valid member, had been part of the judiciary for more than 30 years. To be sure, there has so far been no known official corruption established against her but she should share in the perception of the judiciary as being corrupt.

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While still on the issue of potential influence peddling and corruption in the judiciary, it has to be said that this same judge was still active in service when her spouse procured a curious perpetual injunctionorder from ahigh courtin 2007 shielding him from being investigated by anti-graft agencies. He was governor of an oil-richRivers statefor two terms of four yearseach. Ostensibly flushed with cash, he aspired to be elected president of Nigeria in 2007 from the Governor’s Mansion in Port Harcourt but he was stopped by his party leader who was the outgoing president, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo.

There was a rumour then, which the late Senator Ibrahim Mantu later confirmed that Obasanjo himself was plotting to overthrow the Nigerian Constitutionto succeed himself. The plot failed and he anointed Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua who died in the middle of his first term. There was no evidence that the former Supreme Court judge had any hand in her husband procuring a perpetual injunction against probing his tenure as Rivers state governor [1999-2007] but the fact remains that she was a sitting judge of the Supreme Court at the point of this judicial procurement.

Thecase actually got stuck at the Supreme Court.This perpetual injunction award must be peculiar given that there had been no knowledge of it beingdiligently challenged in court for a review 16years after. If we dwelt too long on the issues of the power spouses,it may be because idolatry is an unhealthy,nay dangerous phenomenon. And that is where the judgment of the PEPT which was delivered last weekfalls under. My Igbo people say that “aru gbaa aho [or aro], oburu omenala”. When evil is allowed to persist it assumes the toga ofcustom and tradition. In Nigeria, cash for judgment has endured for so long that it has been normalized. The late Gen. Oladipo Diya, chief of general staff [CGS] in the regime of the former Head of State, the late Gen. Sani Abacha once spoke about Nigerian judges in unflattering terms. He said judges were so devious and dubious such that they have perfected the art ofwriting two unassailable judgments for parties to a dispute in their court. The judge would pull out from their drawer the judgment that was favourable to the litigant who paidhimthe highestbribe money.

The corruption in the judiciary has got worse since Diya said this about 30 years ago. Nigerian courts have since turned from being the proverbial last hope of the common man to a refuge for scoundrels. It did not happen overnight. Prof. Chidi Odinkalu is a lawyer andan academic. His appetite forlawpractice in terms of litigationand advocacy appears to have evaporated. He probably has seen enough of the rot in the system. Last weekend, with the flair of an artist, he took us through a journey of how we got here. His insight was not just depressing, it was frightening. It will leave any discerning person forlornon the state of the judiciary and the courts. He wrote in an article titled ‘The law of judicial back to the future’that: “In 2008 and 2019, judges who sat on controversial presidential election petitions in election years, enjoyed quick judicial elevation from the parties in whose favour they decided.

Also in 2019, a Chief Justice was guillotined ostensibly because he could not be trusted to determine presidential election petitions in a predictable way in the manner that his would be successor could. “What seems clear is that since 1979, judicial appointments and decision making in election petitions have enjoyed a relationship underpinned by a whiff of implicit quid pro quo”. Today,he wrote that “With 10 serving justices, the Supreme Court has 11 vacancies waiting to be filled. Politicians have learnt to turn election dispute resolution into auditions for shifting judicial deck chairs.

First they rig elections in order to get the opportunity to rig the courts with judges ready to help them to validate rigged elections”. Last week Nigerians were told by the PEPT that you either capture in the field [jungle according to APC]by grabbing it, snatching it and running with it or you forget it. Otherwise, get ready to depose all your witnesses to statement on oath within 21 daysof the declaration of election result;thatsubpoena witnesses are not witnesses of the court;that the use of tech is not recognised;that qualification of candidates is the exclusive preserve ofthe sponsoring political parties whichare free to fieldfelons and sundry criminals;that INEC guidelines are immaterialwhether they are adhered to or not;that yourexpert witness evidence will count for nothing because of their political affiliation; that no litigant should fret about infractions of the law because judges will plead on their behalf that their breakingof the lawincluding double nomination was ‘not intentional’; andthat all election battles mustbe settled in the field. The court is only available and amenable to affirm that the person who stole the election was indeed the winner.

Our duty as citizens is to chorus: ‘as the court pleases’.


Articles published in our Graffiti section are strictly the opinion of the writers and do not represent the views of Ripples Nigeria or its editorial stand.

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