The Federal High Court yesterday directed its judges throughout the federation to stop granting interim and ex-parte orders on all political cases in the country.
The directive was given obviously to forestall the confusion that may arise from pre-election matters ahead of the 2019 general election.
This would mean that all litigations arising from primary elections of political parties and other pre-election matters will henceforth be determined based on the merit of such cases, as the court would no longer interrupt any process pending the determination of the substantive suit.
By this directive, the court is poised to do substantial justice, unlike in the past when desperate politicians and their lawyers would arm-twist the court to sacrifice substantial justice on the alter of technicalities.
The Federal High Court also directed all its judges to conclude impending political cases before them by the end of October.
Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Kafarati made these known yesterday in Abuja during a special court session to mark the commencement of the court’s 2018/2019 legal year.
Kafarati explained that controversy, which would ensue, particularly from political cases, can be reduced when the court takes decisions after hearing all parties in the case.
This, according to him, will forestall hiccups and the blame on the Court by politicians.
The CJ said, “In an attempt to forestall any hiccups and the blame on the Court by the political gladiators, I have during this vacation issued a circular that interim orders ex parte shall not be granted in any political case brought before the court.
“I believe that controversies, especially in political cases can be reduced when the Court takes a decision after hearing all parties in the case”.
He further explained that it is extremely important that all political cases pending before the court are concluded without delay.
He continued: “It is also very important that all political cases that may affect any of the parties which are still pending before any of our courts be concluded without further waste of time to afford all candidates the opportunity to pursue their political ambitions.
“Judges before whom such cases are still pending must endeavour to conclude them before the end of October 2018”.
In his address at the special court session, president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Paul Usoro (SAN), observed that politicians would attempt to drag judges into the murky waters of politics as the election year beckons.
He however urged the bench to resist this attempt and maintain the integrity of the justice sector.
He said, “This legal year would be anything but ordinary, particularly given the tendency of our politicians to reduce the quest for office and positions as do-or-die affairs. Attempts are sometimes made by the political class to drag Your Lordships’ into these murky waters of politics and in the process embarrass the justice sector.
“Happily, Your Lordships’ have always, in the main, resisted these attempts and it is our hope that Your Lordships’ will maintain this stance and position in the coming weeks and months, starting from the imminent cases in regard to parties primaries and pre-election matters”.
On his part, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubarkar Malami (SAN), appealed to judicial officers to ensure that the credibility of their offices and their sense of personal integrity remain unimpeachable.
Malami who was represented by the Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr Dayo Apata, urged the court to ensure speedy dispensation of justice and engender greater public respect and confidence in the Court.
LEADERSHIP recalls that the 1993 presidential elections, popularly known as ‘June 12’ was annulled by former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), on the ground that it was conducted in contravention of an ex-parte order made in the night by a judge of the Abuja High Court.
On June 23, 1993 when Babangida announced the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election, highly believed to have been won by the late MKO Abiola, he blamed the judiciary for the crisis leading to his decision.
IBB had stated in a broadcast: “It must be acknowledged that the performance of the judiciary on this occasion was less than satisfactory. The judiciary has been the bastion of the hopes and liberties of our citizens. Therefore, when it became clear that the courts had become intimidated and subjected to the manipulation of the political process, and vested interests, then the entire political system was in clear dangers.
“This administration could not continue to watch the various high courts carry on their long drawn out processes and contradictory decisions while the nation slides into chaos. It was under this circumstance that the National Defence and Security Council decided that it is in the supreme interest of law and order, political stability and peace that the presidential election be annulled’’.
The drama began on June 11, 1993 when Justice Bassey Ikpeme, the “midnight judge” made a ruling a few hours to the casting of ballot to stop the conduct of the election.
To the applause of the public, Professor Humphrey Nwosu and the electoral body disregarded the ruling and went ahead with the election because Section 19 of Decree No. 13 of 1993 ousted the jurisdiction of the court in the matter.
While election results were been announced, the then Chief Judge FCT High Court, Justice Saleh granted an ex-parte order stopping further announcement of the election results on June12; the same Justice Saleh followed with another declaring the election ‘null and void’.
Also, after the PDP was defeated in the 2015 presidential elections, some stakeholders in the party invited Senator Ali Modu Sherriff to the party in view of his presumed political clout to provide alternative platform to the APC.
After Sheriff was alleged to have been hijacked by enemies who his erstwhile political associates and sponsors no longer wished to be identified with, they began to dissociate themselves from him.
When he was told that his time was up and he should quit, he filed a suit before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos asking the court to stop the national convention.
On May 12, 2016, Justice Ibrahim Buba issued an ex-parte order barring the PDP from holding its national convention. Notwithstanding, the PDP went ahead with the convention and elected a caretaker committee.
But Justice Buba on May 23, 2016 sacked the Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi-led PDP caretaker committee, declaring it as invalid and illegal.
directed the then Inspector general of police, Solomon Arase, to enforce his order and to ensure that the Makarfi committee does not take over the party’s national headquarters and that Ali Modu sheriff remains the national chairman of PDP.
On the same day, in Port Harcourt, Justice Abdullahi Liman gave a contrary exparte order that seemed to give the approval to the action of the (hitherto discredited) Port Harcourt convention.
He gave the order following an exparte motion filed by the members of the Makarfi-led faction of PDP. Justice Liman directed the Sheriff-led committee to desist from parading themselves as national officers or members of the national executive committee or national working committee, as doing so would negate decisions reached at the national convention of May 21.
At the last count, not less than 19 conflicting judgements and orders were in circulation relating to this matter further leading to confusion as to the propriety and legality of those orders and judgments.
The Supreme Court, on July 12, 2017, however upheld the judgment of Justice Liman of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, delivered on July 4, 2016, and the subsequent dissenting judgement of Justice T.S.Orji-Abadua, of the Court of Appeal Port Harcourt, which both validated the removal of Sheriff as the National chairman at the party’s national convention held on May 21, 2016.
NASS Revisits Electoral Amendment Bill
Meanwhile, the National Assembly yesterday announced that it will begin to consider and treat the issues raised by President Muhammadu Buhari on the Electoral Act 2010 Amendment Bill, with a view to repackaging it into a new one.
Buhari had for the third time refused to grant assent to the bill, which was sent to him for signing by the National Assembly.
First of all, he rejected the bill as a result of introduction of new sequence of election provided for in section 25(1) of the bill.
Recently, the President again blatantly rejected the bill over drafting errors and sent it back to the lawmakers for correction.
Yesterday, the joint Senate and House of Representatives Committee on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill met in Abuja during an executive sitting.
It said the bill was being treated for the fourth time after series of refusal by the president to sign it into law.
Chairman of Senate committee on INEC, Senator Suleiman Nazif, who doubles as chairman of the joint committee, told journalists yesterday that the National Assembly is committed to meeting the expectations of Nigerians on the bill.
Nazif said, “I know that this committee is in the eye of the storm and Nigerians are desirous and expecting to hear from us. Here we are, again, trying to address the Electoral Act for the fourth time.
“Nigerians will recall that there was a first Electoral Act (amendment bill), the second and the third one. And if we pass this one it will be the fourth one. I believe that what we are doing is in the best interest of this country. It will address all the fears and we will ensure that we equip INEC with what is necessary and what will ensure free and fair elections in 2019”.
Although Nazif did not disclose the errors to be corrected in the bill, he assured that the committee would announce it’s final position on the matter today (Tuesday).
Niger Delta Militants Endorse PMB For Second Term
Militant groups under the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA) have declared their support for the second term ambition of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019, saying that he is the only president that has shown commitment to peace and development of the Niger Delta since he came on board in 2015.
This is just as the leaders of the third phase amnesty group, led by General Cairo, yesterday blocked the East-West road at the Bayelsa portion in protest against the non-payment of allowances and exclusion from the federal government’s amnesty programme
RNDA leader, General John Mark Ezonebi (alias Obama), revealed the groups’ position after a meeting held at the Benin River in Egbema, Rivers State.
He said that after appraising the administrations of Dr Goodluck Jonathan and President Muhammadu Buhari, they arrived at the conclusion that the incumbent was better placed for a second term in office.
The RNDA, which is a coalition of nine militant groups, noted that the Niger Delta region had suffered significant under-development and massive looting of oil resources under the PDP administration for 16 years, including the tenure of one of their own, Dr Jonathan.
The coalition, however, said it endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari for another term in office due to his integrity characterised so far in fighting against the menace of corruption.
The RNDA, in a statement made available via email, warned those they referred to as self-acclaimed leaders of Niger Delta and “the so-called PDP South-South Governors to stop cerebrating looters who contributed to the under-development of the Niger Delta region, including the likes of Chief Dr E. K. Clark and the Pandef group of failed corrupt PDP members ” who they accused of misleading former president Jonathan and the likes of former ministers Diezani Alison Madueke and Elder Orubebe into misapplying funds meant for the development of the region.
“Furthermore, the RNDA, a coalition of the nine militant groups in the creeks, has endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term in office due to for his integrity characterised so far in fighting against the menace of corruption to standstill in the country, because it is corruption and bad leadership that have contributed to the under development of the Niger Delta region and the country as a whole.”
“The President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC federal government has shown much commitment to address the under developmental challenges facing the Niger Delta region for decades, which has been attributed by the corrupt previous administration of PDP which wasted 16 years of governance.
The RNDA expressed regret that the six-year administration of former President Jonathan was characterised by massive corruption, looting, favouritism and non-supervision of appointees, which resulted in the failure to complete any project in the oil rich region.
It recalled that its acceptance of the federal government’s ceasefire agreement in 2016 led to sustained peace needed to increase the nation’s crude oil output which eventually led the country out of recession.
“RNDA is pleased with President Buhari’s willingness and commitment to the development of the Niger Delta since he came on board in 2015 inspite of the economic recession that greeted the emergence of his administration as the crude oil price hit an all-time low of $35 per barrel.”
“President Buhari fight against corruption had clearly defined his stand on the development of the region and we commend him for the smooth take-off of academic activities at the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko,” the group said, even as it praised the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, approving the dredging of the Escravos river to enable cargo vessels access Warri which will in turn boost economic activities.
The group pleaded with the federal government to consider the implementation of the three percent gas fund into the NDDC, construction of Bonny Inland roads, completion of the East-West road, approval for the deep Sea Port project at Akwa Ibom State, Gas Flare penalty fund, pipeline surveillance jobs, proper funding of the NDDC and release of 10 licences for Modular refineries as well as the relocation of the headquarters of multinational oil companies to the Niger Delta.
The coalition asked the president to begin talks with the Pan Niger Delta Peoples Congress, under the leadership of HRM Pere Charles Ayemi Botu, on the way forward for the region, just as it warned him to disregard certain persons who parade themselves as Niger Delta leaders in order to curry personal favours from the government.
“While we wish to work with the new coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Professor Charles Dokubo. He should be mindful of members of PANDEF who misled the immediate past coordinator, General Paul Boroh (rtd) and abandoned him when the tide was against him despite spending millions of Naira on the disbanded group which is majorly made up of failed and corrupt PDP politicians,” RNDA said.
Meanwhile, scores of ex-militants yesterday blocked the East-West road in protest against the amnesty office over alleged exclusion and non-payment of house allowances to ex-militants from the region.
The aggrieved ex-militants, who arrived the East-West road as early as 5am, left most travellers to Port Harcourt and other areas of the South stranded for hours.
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