The Court of Appeal in Nigeria, has come under strong critisicm by leaders of various Civil Society Groups who have converged on Abuja, on Wednesday, over recent conflicting judgements, leading to the removal of Members of the opposition from the National Assembly.
The CSOs, under the aiges of Coalition for Justice in Africa (CJA), specifically rejected the judgement of the Court of Appeal where various members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were sacked from the National Assembly on basis of pre-election matters.
The Convener of the group, Daniel Okwa who addressed a press conference in Abuja alongside over one hundred pro-democracy groups, described the action of the court as a “rape of democracy”.
The group said, since pre-election matters are decided before elections, there is no locus standi under the law for it to be used to form a judgment.
“Ironically, this played out during the Appeal Court judgment that removed from office some members of the PDP in the National Assembly. It is indeed worrisome that the judgment of the justices of the Appeal Court was in contradiction of the position of the Supreme Court.
“The Coalition for Justice in Africa is at a lost as to how and why an internal party affair should be in the interest of another party and on which basis a judgment was passed. It is disturbing and distressing that the revered Justices of the Appeal Court would turn the law against its head.
“The implication of the decision of the Justices of the Appeal Court is that, the judgment would set a dangerous precedence and a gateway to endless litigation in the future. The wisdom of dealing with pre-election matters before polls has now been undone, with the consequence that those who contested and won political office will now be spending the time they should have committed to delivering their mandate in Court”, the Coalition said.
The Coalition also frowned on what it described as “a miscarriage of justice”, saying, the internal affairs of a political party should not have anything to do with winning elections.
Speaking further, Okwa said, “this is a rape of democracy that tends to discredit the reputation of the judicial arm of government. The judgment is political and not on its merit. The assumption that the judiciary is the people’s hope has been grossly eroded.
“It is also evident that some powerful forces have taken control of the country’s judiciary. These vested interests would spare nothing in their insatiable desire to continue to rape democracy in Nigeria”.
He stressed that, “it is unfortunate that they also explored the gullibility of the Justices of the Appeal Court into a macabre dance. If this is not the case, how on earth would a party challenge the primary elections of another party and, on that basis, get a judgment in its favour”?
The Coalition alluded that, “it is an abracadabra that all well-meaning democrats in Nigeria should resist. Democracy is on the verge of annihilation with the disposition of the justices of the Appeal Court in the dispensation of justice.
“Where is the principle of a meddlesome interloper if APC will challenge the primaries of another party and succeed? This is dangerous for our democracy. The Supreme Court must address this evil decision in any future Appeal before it.
“The Supreme Court has stated the importance of locus standi in pre-election matters in the case ALAHASSAN & ANOR V. ISHAKU & OTHERS (2016) LPELR-40083(SC) (Pp. 39 paras. D), where it held thus:
“As I said earlier, the appellant is a member of the PDP, not APC, and even if he is a member of the APC, he would have no locus to challenge the nomination of the 1st Respondent as he is not one of the aspirants who participated in the primary election.”
“There is a plethora of cases and decisions on the issue of whether a member of a political party can sue another party for non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act. This is what played out at the Appeal Court, and it is such a shame that the custodians of the law have bastardized the law.
“The Coalition for Justice in Africa wishes to state in unequivocal terms that this decision questions our values as a nation if this brazen rape of democracy is allowed to stand.
“The judgment has painted the judiciary in a negative light. It’s clear and evident that while the cases were before the Appeal Court, some highly placed individuals took advantage of the gullibility of our judicial officers to desecrate our democracy.
“We are further concerned that the Court of Appeal has wilfully decapitated the opposition in the country since fewer PDP lawmakers means the country has edged one step closer to becoming a one-party dictatorship. The few PDP lawmakers left in the National Assembly are now easier target for the ruling party should it decide clamp down on the opposition. This is a consideration our dear judicial officers should have borne in mind before reintroducing pre-election matters into post election litigation.
“Questions on our values as a nation will be asked if this brazen rape of democracy is allowed to stand. It is our firm conviction that the Supreme Court will address this anomaly in the fullness of time and save our democracy from destruction”.