By Gena Lubem
A coalition of over 100 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) under the aegis of Global Centre For Conscious Living Against Corruption (GCCLAC) have picked holes in the judgment delivered by the Court of Appeal over the Cross River north Senatorial tussle between Sen. Dr. Steven Adi Odey and Hon. Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja today, 8th August, 2021, under the theme: Corruption in the Temple of Justice, the Executive Director of the Centre, Dr. Gabriel Nwambu wondered while it has become glaring that justice was not served in the matter.
He pointed out that, “courts are called temples of justice across the world. A blind folded maiden with a sword in her hand is the symbol of justice because justice doesn’t care whose ox is gored.
He emphasised that, “ironically, Nigerian courts have increasingly been acquiring the reputation of temples of judgement, and not of justice. There is perhaps no greater point in our national history than now when public confidence in the judiciary is at an all-time low”.
As a coalition of non-partisan, non-governmental civil society organizations who have been observing elections across the country, Dr. Nwambu said they also followed the proceedings of court as it affects the Cross River North Senatorial District bye-election.
According to the Centre, “on the 30th of July, the Election Petition Appeal Tribunal headed by Justice Nwosu-Iheme ruled on the matter following an appeal filed by Joe Agi (SAN) consequent to the victory of Sen. Dr. Steven Adi Odey at the Election Petition Tribunal. The court declared Hon. Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe as the winner of that election.
The rest of the text of the address reads:
Now, as observers we observed three (3) main mind burgling issues about the said judgement:
- That pursuant to Section 285 (13) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). An Election Tribunal or Court shall not declare any person a winner at an election in which such a person has not fully participated in all the stages of the election thus rendering the order made on the 30th July, 2021 on INEC to issue certificate of return to Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe who admitted before the trial tribunal that he was not given INEC Nomination forms and that his name was not forwarded by PDP (his political party) to INEC as its candidate.
- That pursuant to Section 141 of the Electoral Act, 2015 (as amended), an election tribunal or Court shall not under any circumstance declare any person a winner at an election in which such a person has not fully participated in all the stages of the said election. Thus making the order of the Honourable court made on 30th July, 2021 on INEC to issue certificate of return to Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe who admitted on oath not to have been nominated pursuant to section 32 (1) of the Electoral Act 2015 (as amended) for the bye-election of Cross River North Senatorial district held on the 5th December, 2020 and his name not forwarded by his political party to INEC as its candidate is without jurisdiction and illegal.
- That Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe did not file a cross petition and so cannot be entitled to any relief of the court of Appeal warranting his being declared a winner of the election.
Again, Justice Nwosu-Iheme who presided over the matter was very hostile in court on the 30th of July, 2021. Her Lordship shouted down on all the counsels in court and allowed only the counsel to Hon. Jarigbe to address the court. This raises a lot of curiosity.
If not for corruption, how could a Justice of the court of Appeal Jettison Section 285 (13) of the 1999 constitution (as amended)?
How could a justice jettison Section 141 of the Electoral Act 2015 (as amended)?
How could a Justice use a pre-election matter for which Senator Odey and even the PDP, (a party Hon. Jarigbe claimed to have won a primary election) not joined in the matter held in Abuja (a court without jurisdiction) to determine an election matter thus violating and contradicting thefundamental principles of elementary law.
How could a Justice of the court of Appeal use a matter purportedly filed by one Chief John Alaga who was not even a candidate of any political party in the 5th December, 2020 Cross River North Senatorial District bye-election to rule on an appeal?
For the first time in the history of Nigeria, an election tribunal delivered a judgment in so much hurry. It commenced sitting on Tuesday and ruled on Friday. There were three (3) appeals with all the processes, objections, motions, etc., with very voluminous documents. These documents were not read nor even opened.
No doubt, the controversy surrounding this matter has attracted it to be in the public domain. A real huge disgust to the public.
Cases such as this keep reoccurring because Nigerians prefer to remain mute. People are often reluctant to speak out on issues such as this. Little wonder, corruption has become pervasive in our Judiciary today.
In obvious dismay, the APC candidate, Joe Agi SAN, has since filed for a review of this matter.
We can now see why President Muhammadu Buhari tried so hard to sanitize the judiciary because of the high level of corruption.
Consequently, by this medium, we call upon the President, Federal republic of Nigeria, the Chief Justice of the Federation, the Attorney- General and Minister of Justice and indeed the National Judicial Council (NJC) to commence investigation on the Presiding Justice Nwosu-Iheme on this clear case of ‘ABRAKATABRA’ Judgement never seen nor heard in the history of the Federal republic of Nigeria.