September 25, 2020

The Mythical Judicial Autonomy,Unprecedented Review of Supreme Court judgments and Distortion of the Nigerian Legal System; By Sadiq Umar Abdullahi,(Sarkin Matasan Hausa)

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The Federal Republic of Nigeria has been governed by three systems of governance namely, “Parliamentary System of Government,(First Republic, Military Junta and a Presidential System of Government,(Fourth Republic to date)”. Since then, Nigeria has been operating in cohesion of the Rule of Law by several Constitutions in the Colonial Era, such as the “1946 Richardson Constitution,1950 McPherson Constitution,1954 Lyttleton Constitution, which were enacted prior to Independence of Nigeria as a Sovereign Nation”. The Constitutions that followed during post Nigerian Independence started with the Constitution of 1960 also referred to as the Independence Constitution which was enacted in the same year Nigeria was declared and recognized as an independent nation. The enactment of laws were later prescribed in the 1963 Constitution of the First Republic. Other Constitutions that followed over the years were the 1976 Constitution, the aborted 1988 Constitution and the present 1999 (CFRN) as amended which it’s contents serves as the Supreme Laws of the land that supersedes all other laws. It is described as a mirror in which all laws will reflect upon.

Although the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria is Supreme, it is not absolute,given the fact that it is subject to amendments through processes like Constitutional Reforms. There have been several amendments since the enactment of the 1999 Constitution, (CFRN) with the most recent one in the “2014 CONFAB” and a recommendation that is presently being proposed. All other laws of the country were Decrees implemented by governance of Military Regimes. In as much as the 1999 Constitution (CFRN), as amended in Nigeria and all other Constitutions before it, including Constitutions of all other Sovereign Democratic Nations recognizes the Supreme Courts of all countries as the final arbiters in all legal disputes,the politicians and their political parties in the Federal Republic of Nigeria have set their unprecedented, unreasonable, immoral, ignorant, repulsive, unimaginable rationale and quest for power to a totally different level of impunity beyond comprehension by seeking for a review of cases that have been finalized in judgements by the Supreme Court of Nigeria. However, despite the fact that politicians and political parties are partly to blame,the Supreme Court equally has to take responsibility for their role in giving ample room for such prayers and demands in Election Tribunals. The Legal Institution that is meant to serve as the last hope for the common man should consider the request of a review of their final judgments as an insult to both their execution of official duties and the institution they preside over by politicians and other Legal Practitioners. They need to stand firm by their judgments in order to preserve the integrity of the Temple of Justice with fairness and equality before the law that they swore an oath to protect. It is imperative to note that the entire essence of Judicial Autonomy is centered around judges being able deliver a judgment with unfettered interference by other Arms of Government.

The judgement of the Supreme Court in Zamfara State that declared APC votes as wasted for failure to conduct primary elections on all levels of state governance as required by law of the 1999 Constitution (CFRN), as amended and the Electoral Act was a step in the right direction which gave hope and redeemed the integrity of the Judicial Institution. The judgement led to the emergence of Governor Bello Matawalle of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), to emerge as the winner of the Gubernatorial elections in 2019 which was,and still remains a sound judgement with no room for arguments and miscarriage of justice by the Supreme Court. It is arguable that the issues of Supreme Court giving an opportunity for the Zamfara State case to be reviewed after declaring the PDP candidate as the victor opened the floodgates for other politicians and political parties to pursue the same unprecedented legal pursuance that is unheard of,not only in Nigeria, but in all countries that are governed by a Democratic System of Government. By providing room for review of Supreme Court judgements has deminished their prerogative and mandate as the Apex Court of the nation with its authority as an institution of the final arbiter. Furthermore, there have been several politicians calling for the review of the Supreme Court Judgment in Imo State where the incumbent Governor was ousted and the opposition party member being declared as the winner of the controversial elections. It is clear that so many things didn’t add up in the judgement given by the Apex Court at first glance, but after a detailed review by learned persons, the facts become glaringly clear that there were too many technicalities, negligence and misrepresentation that could not be overlooked by the Legal Counsels handling the matter right to the end of the proceedings. Some even argue alleged compromise by Counsels during the Judicial Proceedings. The similarities in the rationale of the case in Imo State is nothing short of the same grounds used by President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) in court during his quest to become President of Nigeria in 2003, 2007 and 2011 in court all the way to the Supreme Court. By agreeing to review the judgment by the Supreme Court in the case of Imo State fixed for hearing on the 18th of February will most certainly give other candidates that lost their cases an opportunity to equally apply for a review on grounds and claims of erred judgments by Court of final arbiter.

The most recent Supreme Court judgment that nullified the case of Bayelsa State governor-elect David Lyon has attracted a mass hysteria from people as devoid of serving a fair trial by the Supreme Court. The judgement that ousted the sitting Governor that is a member of the Ruling Party (APC), came at a time the governor elect had took to rehearsing his swearing-in ceremony. The judgement was paneled by a five-member Justices to finally disqualify the Governor and his Deputy Governor elect because of a forged certificate presented to Independent National Electoral Commission,(INEC). It is rather unfortunate that the disqualification of a running mate of a candidate has led to loosing an entire political victory for not only the Governor,but their Political Party Platform in it entirety. Another important aspect is the precedence set by the Supreme Court in Bayelsa State which has opened a Can of Worms,best described as “PANDORA’S BOX” for politicians whose numbers cannot be easily equated across the country. Should such a thorough and unbiased investigation be carried out,it will imminently lead to the disqualification of 50 percent of leaders on the seat of power controlling the mantle of leadership across the entire political spectrum of the country. Politicians, Legal Practitioners, Activists and Patriotic Citizens should view the cup half full as opposed to half empty by using the precedence as an opportunity to file fresh laws suits against opponents with such illegal declarations. Heads will surely roll in using the recently concluded case based on the precedence set by the Supreme Court of Nigeria as a turning point with regard to such matters of disqualification on grounds of forgery. The Supreme Court surely have their hands tied with a Volcanic Heated Iron Rod in the judgment given by it’s authority and jurisdiction in the case of Bayelsa State.

Having said all that, It is common knowledge and ought to be obvious to the general public that the Supreme Court of a country ruled by a Constitution considered as Supreme can not define a judgement and retract it. All calls to reverse the judgement will and must exhibit it’s full implementation that it can never antagonize such judgements. It can not impale through to the disestablishment of it’s credibility as it is the Apex Court of Laws in Nigerian Judiciary system.

Public outcry cannot provoke the decision to say and unsay as whatever upheld as a decisive implementation by the Court can never be of “pronounce and renounce”.

May Allah SWA continue to bless,guide and protect us with his infinite wisdom and mercy. Amin Ya Rahman.

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