On Friday, May 3rd, the Federal High Court, Abuja sacked Abdulrauf Modibbo as House of Representatives member-elect representing Yola South/Yola North/Girei Federal Constituency of Adamawa State in the National Assembly. Modibbo, who won the All Progressives Congress (APC) primaries, represented the APC in the 2019 general elections in which he was declared winner.
Modibbo was dragged to court by another APC contestant, Mustapha Usman, with the allegation that he falsified his age and was not eligible to contest the APC primaries. The court maintained that Usman was the rightful winner of the 7th October APC primaries and candidate of the party for the constituency.
In the same vein, Senator Ademola Adeleke of the People’s Democratic Party in Osun state, who is currently engaged in a tussle with the current governor of the state, Alhaji Oyetola, was arrested again on fresh charges concerning the certificate forgery case leveled against him before the elections. The certificate forgery allegations was designed to test his qualification for contesting the Osun elections in the first place, just in case he wins at the tribunal all the way to the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the appeal body hearing the contest delivered a judgment which sets aside the ruling of the 3-man judges panel at the tribunal. Senator Adeleke has since declared that the case proceeds to the Supreme Court with immediate effect.
On Wednesday, May 8th, the tribunal panel billed to hear the presidential election petition filed by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, began a pre-hearing sitting in order to quickly resolve alleged malpractices at the last presidential elections held in March. The pre-hearing will help all parties concerned fix necessary dates for the tribunal sittings which has to round up and deliver judgment latest 180 days from the date of filing the petition on March 8tht, in accordance with the Electoral Act.
Up until, and even after, the inauguration of the new administration on May 29th, many other tribunals will begin sitting and more cases will be heard at the courts on allegations bordering on candidate qualification, record of crime or even scandals from asset falsification, certificate forgery, age falsification, educational history, malpractices at party primaries, and so on.
Once again, even as we could not control or straighten most of the inadequacies in the last elections, we can only hope that the most independent arm of government – the judiciary – does a thorough job before they make pronouncements bound by law. These are the times when pronouncements by the courts and the tribunals, in their different levels of jurisdiction, would mean a lot to the common man who felt cheated by unfavourable outcomes forced into play by election rigging in the last concluded elections.
It is a well known fact that these judges who will be sitting at the tribunals have family and friends who are also into politics; but can we at least expect some level of fairness and balance in their judgment and analysis of arguments presented by learned lawyers in court? Will any of these judges who know they will be biased in judgment be honourable enough to recuse themselves from sensitive cases?
It is known that the husband of the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Bulkachuwa, is a senator-elect from the last elections. Will she be fair enough in judgment when it comes to matters relating to her husband? We are aware also that a nephew of the next most senior justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Rhodes-Vivour, could get to sit on some panels if an appeal gets to the topmost court. Will he and others who have found themselves in this conundrum be honourable enough to excuse themselves from the affiliated tribunals?
That the judiciary seems to be the last hope of the common Nigerian getting justice, per lying politicians or election rigging, does not translate to relaxing yet. We have to monitor progress of all these cases with the help of the investigative media, in order to ensure that we always get the best out of our struggling democracy.
Featured image source: The Nation