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The Judiciary And 2023 Polls
Published Mar 13, 2023 IN Editorial,
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ONE of the basic principles adopted by United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders at its seventh congress held in Milan, Italy, from August 26 to September 6, 1985 and endorsed by General Assembly resolutions 40/32 of November 29, 1985 and 40/146 of December 13, 1985 clearly states :

“The judiciary shall decide matters before them impartially, on the basis of facts and in accordance with the law, without any restrictions, improper influences, inducements, pressures, threats or interferences, direct or indirect, from any quarter or for any reason.”

This, no doubt, is a re-enactment of the time- honoured role of the judiciary as an instrument of social engineering manifesting in dispute resolution between individuals or institutions and individuals, defence of the rule of law and democracy, among others, without fear or favour.

It is, therefore, only naturally and logically expected that the society relies heavily on the judiciary to ensure proper dispensa­tion of justice in accordance with the laws of the land.

More than ever before, all eyes are today on the Nigerian judiciary as the contention as to the actual winners of the the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly elections shift to the various Election Petition Tribunals at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT),, Abuja and various tribunal across the states, respectively.

The cynosure, however, appears to be the presidential poll re­sults being challenged by Mr Peter obi of the Labour Party(LP) and Alhaji Abubakar Atiku of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) against Asiwaju BolaTinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who was declared winner by the electoral umpire, the independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

Already, all the three contenders have assembled legal luminar­ies and other necessary documents and exhibits in readiness for the expected legal fire works.

While we commend the the contenders for channelling their grievances to the judiciary for resolution ,we must admit that this places an enormous task on the judiciary not just because of the work load but more importantly for the members of this vital organ of government to demonstrate capacity and willing­ness to live up to the billing of their calling and discharge their duties without fear or favour.

This is necessitated by the fact that, more often than not, past judicial decisions in matters of elections in our county have left much with to be desired.

For instance, three years ago, the Supreme Court adjudicating a gubernatorial matter gave judgment for a contestant who came a distant fourth as against others who placed first ,second and third, respectively.

Added to this are the more recent and worrisome cases of two Senators whose presidential ambitions cracked during party primaries were adjudged as winners of senatorial seats even though other members of the party had hitherto emerged as candidates via genuine primary polls for the senatorial districts.

In retrospect, similar unsavory decisions hit the Nigerian elec­torate in the inglorious 12 .2/3 (twelve two third) decision in 1979 presidential contest between late Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) and Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria.The conflicting judgments of some courts and the annulment of the June12,1993 presidential election adjudged to be the most free, fair and peace­ful in our history still lingers in the minds of many Nigerians.

The petitions at the tribunals following 2023 elections, there­fore, present an opportunity for the judiciary to redeem its image by ensuring that not only is justice done but must be manifestly seen to have been done.

We believe that, with transparent honesty, courage and firm resolution to shun intimidation and or inducement, the judiciary can regain its place in the hearts of Nigerians.

Indeed, the judgments of the courts in the gubernatorial cases of Amaechi in Rivers State; Peter Obi versus Ngige of Anambra State, respectively, kindled peoples hope in the judiciary at the time they were delivered. Not only were such judgments sound and popular, they reflected the wishes of majority of the people.

The judiciary should resist pressures, interference, induce­ments or acts of favouritism; it is by so doing that it can regain people’s confidence and trust.

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