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Plateau: Curbing injustice in electoral judgment

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Plateau: Curbing injustice in electoral judgment

Though about all of the disputes related to the very contentious 2023 Nigerian electoral cycle seem to have now been taken out of the way presently, it however, remains very evident that the Plateau electoral situation is one that evidently remains unresolved and continues to stand out as a sore thumb; a political logjam without an undisputed legal solution.

In that particular instance, the designated Justices of the Appeal Court, who reviewed the earlier judgement of the Elections petitions tribunal had ruled that the primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, had been defectively conducted and, as such, the candidates fielded by the party in the polls, and who had now been declared and sworn in as winners, were ineligible to contest the polls in the first place and should, therefore, vacate their seats and positions, in which basis they were also barred from the bye elections that took place recently.

While this newspaper commends the Justices of the Supreme Court in their pointing out the obvious travesty involved in the judges of the Court of Appeal adjudicating over a pre-election matter long after the elections have been conducted, the fact that the Supreme court justices did not go a step further to make consequential pronouncements on the resultant state of legal quagmire emanating from that gaffe has resulted very simply in an unfortunate situation in which the aggregate sum of all of the judgements handed down by the courts in the case of the legislative polls in Plateau state finally comes out as a blatant situation of justice being whimsically denied. This is most unfortunate.

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That the apex court so rightly discerned a failing in the ruling of the Appeal Court but went on to plead a helplessness in the face of the law to correct same could be excused by some as another situation of the ‘hands of justices being tied.’ But what then should the public take away from that unhelpful state of helplessness? What confidence does it give to the entire judicial system and the provenance of the rule of law? How much does it help in allaying long bandied concerns that our judiciary, and in particular, judges that preside over election matters are sometimes compromised?

Again, it is also to be noted that this is coming at a time of widespread public concern over the incredibly larger-than-life role that the judiciary has continued to play in the election of public officials in the country. To have the nation waiting with bated breath for the pronouncements of the courts one year into the conclusion of elections to determine rightful holders of office is indeed a quite troubling stretch. This and other factors have evidently come to pit the judiciary as an integral part of the electoral challenge in the country and necessitating calls for every effort to be made to minimize their interventions in future polls. This is more so when there is still very widespread public perception that the last election provided the judiciary a golden opportunity to sanitize our electoral process by dealing a deadly blow to electoral brigandage, but alas, the verdict of the streets is that they failed the people woefully.

With the justices playing the ostrich on how to resolve the quagmire in the Plateau, there is, therefore, only one other possibly, lawful way to go: to ask the purported winners of the said legislative polls to voluntarily surrender their clearly very contentious victories in the overall public good.

In this way, the All Progressives Congress, APC, which largely benefited from the Plateau judicial saga would be saving the country the embarrassment of the judgment by seeking and endorsing a political solution that includes the option of a fresh election. The Independent National Elections Commission, INEC can, thereafter, pick up the gauntlet and conduct fresh or rerun polls for all of the affected constituencies and districts.

In addition, we also call on the National Judicial Council, NJC to take very strong and deterrent steps to ensure that the battered image of the judiciary is cleansed and restored. The law is too important in our overall scheme of things to now be be seen as ineffective, ineffectual and unjust.

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