Wednesday 27 February 2008

Nigeria: We must make the case at the Supreme Court

A transcript is required

There would be continuous commentary and analysis of the judgement offered by the Federal Electoral Petitions Tribunal yesterday regarding the validity of the election of President Umaru Yar’Adua.

However, I do not think we can objectively comment on these matters till we are provided with the transcript of the judgement which was read for well over 3 hours.

Now, the needs for justice as we are sentimentally inclined to have desired might not have been served, but the one for due process and its legal requirements have been served.

A case must be made

I am concerned that the judgement came out as unanimous, but that simply implies that the case and evidence presented by the plaintiffs did not convincingly satisfy the judges beyond reasonable doubt – which meant they could not find in favour of the plaintiffs.

I also worry that the executive inadvertently tried to influence or interfere with the proceedings by plucking the chairman of the tribunal out for the post of Associate Justice in the Supreme Court of Nigeria – that really should have waited till all proceedings in which the judge might have been found to have a professional duty and honourable cause had been completed.

Law of evidence not weight of sentiment

In all, it appears the evidence gathered for presentation has to attain a higher standard of quality to admissibly influence judgement in favour of the plaintiffs, they do have their work cut out.

We also have to note that justice in and of itself cannot exist in a vacuum; it needs to operate in the context of the society in which the laws that govern that process thrives.

If the election of the president had been annulled, the order of precedence which is in complete disarray at the moment with the annulment of the election of the senator who also happened to be the Senate President would have had us going to the 38-year old Speaker of the House – the 4th in line.

It would have meant all houses of legislature losing their leadership as the executive goes into meltdown and the Speaker tries to steady the ship of the our great nation for possibly 90 days.

Not with this INEC

Conducting another election under the auspices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which still has Professor Maurice Iwu as chairman would have been untenable.

We still have no confidence in the ability and competence of that organisation to run free and fair elections, they cannot now suddenly have gained the competence to perform, rather they might just have perfected how to cover up the loopholes the tribunal proceedings might have exposed.

The plaintiffs do have a solid case and have another opportunity make that case better at the highest court of the land and to seek justice with a judgement in its finality because inadvertently, the tribunal might have shied away from the culpability of plunging the country into chaos.

Prove the case convincingly

I would hope the President would move speedily to overhaul and revamp INEC with more trustworthy and competent leadership and when this case does get to the Supreme Court, one would expect the newly appointed Associate Justice to recuse himself from participating in a case that is reviewing his earlier opinions.

I would say, things are working, so far, so good, those whooping for joy now might soon be in a different state of mind.

If we believe that the elections in April 2007 were flawed, rigged, rotten and falsified, we need to gather unimpeachable and incontrovertible evidence, then present such with excellence before the learned judges – the dry-run at the tribunal should be lesson enough for all concerned - the judges need to be convinced.

Advance! Nigeria! Advance!

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