Fred Itua, Abuja
Almost one week after the Supreme Court sacked Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as governor of Imo State, stakeholders, activists and members of the Civil Society Groups have warned of the dangers ahead.
The stakeholders who are members of Alliance for Preservation of Democracy, while addressing newsmen in Abuja on Sunday, said the judgment of the Supreme Court announcing Hope Uzodinma as Governor of Imo State, was a usurpation of the powers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Lemmy Ughegbe, who spoke on behalf of others, said Nigeria currently stands at judicial crossroads and warned that if not addressed, will erode the values of reprieve, justice and faith in the judiciary.
He said: “As you are all aware, our country stands at a dangerous judicial crossroad, which if not urgently addressed will erode the values of reprieve, justice and faith in the very institution that ordinarily should stand above the vagaries of politics and compromise.”
He said judgments are now more political, rather than relying on the existing laws. He said judges are now ruled by fear of what could befall them if they act contrary to the interest of those in power.
“Today, judgments are more political than judicial. Judges are ruled by fear of what could befall them if they act contrary to the famed ‘body language’ of those that wield executive powers. It is in this sense that we are concerned. We challenge all Nigerians to come together and seek for ways to save the judiciary from self-destruct.
“It is still a waiting game to see how the Supreme Court will explain its historical ruling on the Imo gubernatorial contest owing to its obvious somersault on legal precedents it had established prior to the curious judgment of Tuesday, January 14, 2020.
“We are not unmindful that right from the moment security operatives, in Gestapo manner, laid siege to the homes of judges and thereafter the grave assault in the removal of the Justice Walter Onnoghen, judges across the country are in great peril, therefore wont to pander to some interests. The reason is because some of them are mired in conduct unbecoming of judicial officers, therefore, susceptible to blackmail by agents of State.
“It is imperative that those who are already compromised should seek for penance through the NJC or come public so as to have the moral courage to deliver judgments not only according to the law but their conscience.”
He called on Nigerians to defend the judiciary, as it serves as the last hope of the common man.
He said: “Furthermore, it is about time that Nigerians stand in defence of the judiciary as it serves as the last bastion of safety, decency and guardian of the rule of law.
“For too long have Nigerians shirked their duty of rallying behind a key arm of government that needs to be shielded from the vagaries of the other two arms. If we allow the judiciary and judicial officers to continual be muddied and bullied, then we should all count ourselves lost.
“Also, the judges should be circumspect in making pronunciations or reaching decisions. Theirs is a sacred duty and on many occasions, they hold the key to life and death.
“For intance, how can a judge ask a Defendant alleged to have misappropriated N100m to bring a civil servant as surety in the sum of N1bn? Is this not invariably asking that he brings an individual that has corruptly enriched himself at public expense, or that the one on trial should find no remedy in the law? What is the essence of the law if not justice and correction?
“As things are, judicial officers must embark on soul searching while we as citizens – corporate or otherwise – must work to insulate the judiciary from the grievous assault of those determined to upend our democracy and cast a cloud over our common destiny.
“It is our expectation that as the Apex Court moves to deliver judgments on other pending appeals, it will stand on firm footing and not be swayed by any sentiment other than justice for the common good.”