‘All eyes on the Judiciary’, other issues that dominate the bench in 2023

FOR most of 2023, the Nigerian courts were busy with various cases ranging from election litigations to corruption and other issues. 

As the year winds down,  The ICIR’s Bankole Abe highlights key issues in the nation’s judiciary in the outgoing year.

Post-election cases in 2023

All eyes on the Judiciary

The post-2023 general elections litigations made Nigerians beam searchlights on the judiciary as the aggrieved parties sought redress in courts.

Some Nigerians developed a campaign tagged “All Eyes on the Judiciary” following the presidential election case at the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal (PEPT).


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The slogan resonated with many citizens who keenly expected the court’s pronouncement on who would lead the nation for another four years after the exit of former President Muhammadu Buhari. 

The hashtag #AllEyesOnTheJudicairy and its different variations gained traction when the PEPT was about to conclude its hearing.

While the campaign was going online, people were erecting billboards across Nigeria.

A variation of the All eyes on the judiciary billboard.
A variation of the All Eyes on the Judiciary billboard.

There were reports that the All Progressives Congress (APC) -led government clamped down on the campaigners. The Federal Government also dissolved the Advertising Standard Panel (ASP) for approving the trending ‘All Eyes on The Judiciary’ billboards.

The billboards breached the ASP’s ethical guidelines”, Olalekan Fadolapo, head of the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON), said in a statement disbanding ASP.

The ARCON also ordered the destruction of all billboards carrying the slogan nationwide.

On its part, Intercontinental Marketing & Communication Consortium Limited, the agency that ran the campaign on behalf of its clients, said it followed all due processes and got approval before mounting the campaign on billboards.

Tribunal rulings

After the 2023 general election, the courts were filled with petitions against candidates declared winners by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The INEC announced winners in different states, and soon after the announcements, the battle shifted to the Election Petitions Tribunal across the country.

The governorship election petitions tribunals have given judgments in several cases brought before them by the parties.

Here is a look at the tribunals’ rulings across the states.

After the tribunal ruling, some candidates and their parties who lost at the tribunal proceeded to the Appeal court.

Here are a few decisions from the Appeal court

Adamawa state

On Monday, December 18, the Court of Appeal in Abuja affirmed the victory of Fintiri as the duly elected governor of Adamawa state.

The court dismissed a petition by the APC and its governorship candidate, Aisha Dahiru, also known as Binani.

In its judgment, the court held that the Adamawa governorship election petition tribunal rightly proclaimed Fintiri the poll winner.

Kano state

In a judgement that generated many reactions, the Appeal Court in Abuja sacked Abba Yusuf as Kano state governor, affirming the state’s governorship election petitions tribunal ruling, which earlier sacked him.

APC is contesting Yusuf’s victory as the election winner.

In a judgment delivered on Friday, November 17, a three-member panel of the appellate court held that Yusuf’s party – the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) – breached the Constitution by sponsoring him when he was not a party member.

 Nasarawa state

The Appeal Court in Abuja dismissed the Nasarawa state governorship election petition tribunal’s ruling on the election. It affirmed Abdullahi Sule of the APC as duly elected.

In its decision on Thursday, November 23, the appellate court stated that the tribunal erred in naming the PDP candidate, David Ombugadu, as the legitimate winner in the poll.

Ogun state

The Court of Appeal, Lagos, upheld the elections of Dapo Abiodun as the duly elected governor of Ogun state.

In the majority judgment delivered by Joseph Ikyegh, the appellate court rejected the appeal filed by Ladi Adebutu, the PDP candidate.

However, the minority judgment delivered by Ane Inyang was delivered in the PDP’s favour as it ordered INEC to conduct a fresh election in the state within 90 days.

Rivers state

On Tuesday, November 28, the appellate court dismissed the suit filed by the governorship candidate of the APC, Tonye Cole, challenging the victory of Siminalayi Fubara of the PDP.

The Appeal Court, in a unanimous decision, dismissed Cole’s petition.

Supreme Court judgment on presidential election

In Nigeria, most presidential elections always end at the Supreme Court, and the 2023 presidential poll was no different.

Atiku Abubakar, Bola Tinubu, Peter Obi.
Atiku Abubakar, Bola Tinubu, Peter Obi.
Image courtesy: Vanguard

Following the path of the Court of Appeal, on October 26, the Supreme Court dismissed the suits filed by Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP). It affirmed the Appeal Court’s judgment, which affirmed the victory of President Bola Tinubu of the APC.

Confusion over CTC of Appeal Court judgement on Kano election

There was confusion over the released Certified True Copy (CTC) of the Appeal Court judgment on the Kano state governorship election as a portion of the report contradicted what the court delivered and affirmed Abba Yusuf’s victory as the duly elected governor.

The court’s ruling had sacked Yusuf as governor.

On page 67 of the CTC, sighted by The ICIR on Tuesday, November 21, and signed by the Registrar, Jameel Ibrahim Umar, the court upheld Yusuf’s victory.

On November 17, The ICIR reported that the Court of Appeal in Abuja sacked Yusuf as Kano state governor, affirming the state’s governorship election petitions tribunal ruling.

On page 67 of the CTC sighted, the panel headed by Moore Abraham Adumein, in its conclusion, said, “I will conclude by stating that the live issues in this appeal are hereby resolved in favour of the 1st respondent and against the appellant.” 

In this case, Governor Yusuf is the appellant, while the APC is the first respondent. The second and third respondents are the NNPP and INEC.

The first ruling, which settled the matter in favour of the APC, indicated that the tribunal’s decision was upheld, contrary to the CTC later released by the court, which stated that the tribunal’s decision to remove Yusuf had been overturned.

It was a clerical error

Speaking on the controversy, the chief registrar of the Court of Appeal, Umar Bangari, claimed that the alleged disparity was a clerical error that had no bearing on the court’s ruling.

Bangari stated that the Court of Appeals Handbook, Order 23, Rule Four gives the court the authority to fix any clerical error that it or any of the parties to the case discovers.

Bangari promised to correct the ‘error’ as soon as the parties to the case file official applications to that effect.

Fire guts Supreme Court

A section of the Supreme Court complex in Abuja caught fire on Monday, September 25.

Unconfirmed reports said the fire consumed the offices of three justices.

The spokesperson of the Supreme Court, Festus Akande, confirmed the incident but said it was not as severe as widely believed.

He noted that most of the ‘rumours’ on social media were incorrect.

Black Weekend

It was a black weekend for the nation’s judiciary in July 2023 as one Supreme Court judge, Chima Nweze and another at the Federal High Court, Peter Mallong, died.

Nweze died on the evening of Sunday, July 30, at the age of 64, while Mallong passed on after a brief illness. He was 60 years old.

Justices Chima Nweze of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and Peter Mallong of the Federal High Court
Justices Chima Nweze of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and Peter Mallong of the Federal High Court. Picture courtesy of Nations Newspaper

CJN too powerful – Musa Dattijo

On Friday, October 27, a retiring member of the bench at the Supreme Court, Musa Dattijo, bemoaned the excessive power bestowed upon the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and contended that it was on purpose that the South-East region’s vacant seat at the Supreme Court bench remained unfilled.

According to Dattijo, the CJN controls the Nigerian Judicial Council (NJC), which is in charge of appointing and disciplining judges. In addition, he said the CJN served as chair of the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee, the National Judicial Institute, and the Federal Judicial Service Commission.

“My considered opinion: the oversight functions of these bodies should not rest on an individual alone. A person with absolute powers, it is said, corrupts easily and absolutely,” he stated.

He said such enormous powers could be abused, and the practice needed to change. 

NJC recommends the appointment of 11 Supreme Court Justices, others

The CJN had, at the valedictory service held in honour of Dattijo in October, complained that the apex court was left with just ten justices on the bench.

According to the CJN, the number was the lowest the court had had in recent years.

But in December, the NJC recommended the appointment of 11 justices to the Supreme Court.

The council also recommended one justice of the Court of Appeal, six heads of courts and 26 other judicial officers to Tinubu for approval.

According to the statement by the apex court’s Director of Information, Soji Oye, the recommended candidates would be sworn in after the Senate approved their nomination.

The appointment of the candidates will give the Supreme Court a full complement of 21 justices, as enshrined in the Constitution.

Below are the 11 justices recommended by the NJC for the Supreme Court bench:

  • Haruna Tsammani (North-East)
  • Moore Adumein (South-South)
  • Jummai Sankey (North-Central)
  • Chidiebere Uwa (South-East)
  • Chioma Nwosu-Iheme (South-East)
  • Obande Ogbuinya (South-East)
  • Stephen Adah (North-Central)
  • Habeeb Abiru (South-West)
  • Jamilu Tukur (North-West)
  • Abubakar Umar (North-West)
  • Mohammed Idris (North-Central).

The NJC recommended Mohammed Ahmed Ramat as the Court of Appeal Justice.

It also recommended candidates for various heads of courts across states, such as Taraba, Kebbi, Ogun, Zamfara, Nasarawa, Bayelsa, Kano and Oyo.






     

     

    Supreme Court Ruling on Nnamdi Kanu

    The Supreme Court, on Friday, December 15, refused to order the release of the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, from confinement.

    The Court of Appeal in October 2022 ordered Kanu’s release and dismissed the terrorism charges against him.

    Nnamdi Kanu
    IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu

    However, in its ruling through Emmanuel Agim, the Supreme Court nullified the Court of Appeal’s decision.

    The Supreme Court ruled in the government’s favour and said Kanu must stand trial before the Federal High Court.

     

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