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Editorial

Hallowed Judiciary Can’t Be Politicians’ Playground

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In their deleterious desperation to upend opponents, Nigerian politicians are again dragging the nation’s judiciary to the mud with pliant judges as their enablers. This is with the indiscriminate issuance of conflicting injunctions by courts of equal jurisdiction on the same subject matter.

This pastime of politicians and conniving judges got so bizarre that the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, summoned the Chief Justices of Rivers, Anambra, Jigawa, Kebbi, Imo, and Cross River States. While the high courts of Imo, Jigawa, and Anambra were reportedly summoned over their roles in the Anambra governorship election, the high courts of Rivers, Kebbi, and Cross River on the other hand are to explain their involvement in the case of the PDP Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus.

As pertains to the former, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) got several court orders and counter-order in the build-up to the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State. In one instance, shortly after a court ordered INEC to recognize a particular aspirant as the candidate of a political party, another order of court equal jurisdiction directed the electoral umpire to replace that person with another person as the flag bearer.

For the latter, three high courts in Rivers, Kebbi and Cross River States through exparte injunctions ordered the suspension and return to office on Secondus as the National Chairman of the PDP. This calls to mind a similar situation in 2016 where Justice Okon Abang of Federal High Court Abuja set aside the judgment of Justice Ibrahim Watila of Port Harcourt division of the same court regarding the August 17 National Convention of the PDP!

It bears stating that these underhand manoeuvres through the courts are a kindred spirit among the Nigerian political class regardless of the parties they belong to. Recall that prior to his eventual sack by the National Executive Committee (NEC) as National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) last year, Adams Oshiomhole, was restrained and later ordered back to office by high courts in FCT, Abuja, Benin, and Kano.

Naija News utterly condemns this classless act of forum shopping by Nigerian politicians, given the grave threat the practice poses to the country’s hard-won democracy. It is sacrilegious that the judiciary not only entertains this debauchery but facilitates it. For the uninitiated, exparte orders are granted with restraint and are intended for very urgent situations where what could cause irreparable damage or loss must be stopped pending the determination of the substantive matter by the court.

Exparte order answers to a situation where you can’t reach the other party or where before serving the notice and getting back to the court some irrevocable damage may have been done. When a convict, who has a pending appeal, is about to be executed, an exparte injunction comes in handy because if the sentence of execution is carried out, the person’s life won’t be available to pursue the pending appeal.

As it were, an exparte order is used to avert an impending irreparable action that a party in a suit just got wind of. If this is the case, are those who obtained the controversial injunction just getting to know that Secondus is the PDP National Chairman? For Pete’s sake, he was sworn into office in 2017 and has been presiding over the NEC meetings of the party as well as carried out opposition activities to the knowledge of even the international community.

Why then will the Rivers court issue an injunction as if Secondus just got into the PDP National Chairmanship or that his continued stay will irreversibly affect the person seeking the exparte.

With all due respect, Naija News believes that the court could have exercised restraint by asking the party seeking such injunction to put Secondus on notice since the circumstance is not so urgent. Although bound by the facts of cases before them, we expect judges to take judicial notice of certain occurrences since they shouldn’t be seen giving conflicting judgment on the same subject matter.

Since this unethical conduct of forum shopping dates back to 1993 and has continued unabated, we demand the nationwide adoption of the Federal High Court standard where lawyers depose to an affidavit distinct from their cause of action that there is no duplicity of action. Across all courts in the land, lawyers filing political cases should file this affidavit on oath such that if it turned out that they are aware and intentionally sought to mislead the court, the case they filed can be dismissed or it becomes enough ground for criminal proceedings to be commenced against the deponent to such affidavit.

Naija News equally calls for the automation of the process for filing cases in Nigerian courts. For all intents and purposes, the manual system doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s difficult for the chief judges to track the movement of cases to be able to know that a similar case has already been assigned. Digitalization will enable them easily know of existing cases and not assign them to judges of the same court. Via automation, the subject matter of filed cases can be indexed and prompt itself whenever another suit with respect to the same subject matter is filed.

The nation’s judiciary is made a subject of ridicule when politicians and their lawyers move from courts to courts in search of exparte injunctions that give them an advantage. This practice poses an existential threat to the nation’s democracy as the trend seems to worsen by the day. Unfortunately, the bar and the bench have failed to rise to the occasion. As the 2023 elections draw near, we also call for the amendment of sections 31 and 85 of the Electoral Act. We also believe that an amendment to such legislations will go a long way in curbing the absurdity of courts of equal jurisdictions giving conflicting injunctions and verdicts.

Source: Naija News