He called for a review of some recent judgements delivered by the Court of Appeal, which sacked two governors of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Zamfara and Plateau states.
Renowned lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana has reacted to the sack of two governors of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Zamfara and Plateau states.
According to ThisDay, Falana described as a dangerous judicial trend the recent tendency by the courts to sanction voters and deprive them of their rights to elect leaders of their choice due to the mistakes of some electoral officers.
Falana made the assertion in a television programme. He called for a review of some recent judgements delivered by the Court of Appeal, which sacked two governors of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Zamfara and Plateau states, and a New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) governor in Kano State.
Similarly PDP, yesterday, called on the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, to defend the integrity of the judiciary by setting up a judicial inquest into alleged public boasting by leaders of the ruling APC that the party had persons in the judiciary, particularly at the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, who would do their bidding on election cases before the courts.
Still on the mounting reservations over recent judicial pronouncements, former Vice President and PDP presidential candidate in the last general election, Atiku Abubakar, said APC’s “snatch, grab and run” agenda was inimical to democracy.
But the federal government condemned PDP and Atiku’s spokesman for unfairly impugning the integrity of the judiciary by alleging partisanship against it in the wake of the judicial setbacks suffered by PDP governors in Plateau, Zamfara and Nasarawa states.
Nonetheless, the Court of Appeal in Abuja dismissed an appeal filed by Titus Uba of PDP against the election of APC’s Reverend Father Hyacinth Alia as Governor of Benue State and affirmed the governor as validly elected.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Abba Yusuf (Kano), Dauda Lawal (Zamfara), and Caleb Mutfwang (Plateau) as duly elected governors of their respective states in the March 2023 governorship elections.
But the Court of Appeal, in separate judgements, sacked the governors, who are all members of the opposition PDP, except the Kano State governor, who belongs to NNPP, also an opposition party.
In Kano, for instance, the Court of Appeal declared the APC governorship candidate, Nasir Gawuna, winner of the poll. It ruled that the poll in Zamfara State was inconclusive and ordered INEC to conduct a fresh election in three local government areas of the state, where APC is believed to be strong.
In yet another judgement, the appellate court ordered INEC to issue a Certificate of Return to APC’s Nentawe Goshwe in Plateau State.
However, speaking during an interview on national television, Falana said, “If you look at what happened in Lagos, it is different from what happened in Plateau. You are being told in Plateau that there was a judgement of the High Court to the effect that primaries have to be conducted. The judgement, as usual, was dishonoured and disobeyed and the election went on.
“It is different from Kano, where you are being told that voters can be punished. It is a very dangerous judicial policy to sanction voters for the mistake of electoral officers.
“We are being told that 165,000 votes are wasted, they are invalid because some electoral officers committed an error by not stamping them. How does that affect the validity of the election?
“I do hope that this time around, the Supreme Court will resolve these needless controversies surrounding the non-stamping of ballot papers by INEC officials, who have not been recommended for any sanction. This is why these judgements will have to be reviewed.”
Falana had aired a similar view days back, when he argued, “Nigeria cannot conduct credible elections without amending the relevant provisions of the constitution and Electoral Act to provide for the appointment of INEC members by advertisement, deployment of technology for accreditation of voters and transmission of election results from polling units to the central server of INEC.”
Speaking on “Updating Nigeria’s Electoral Reforms” at the Retreat of the Joint Committee on Electoral Matters, supported by Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre in Lagos, Falana said, “Once the electoral process is fully technologised the proof of election petitions will be based on the BVAS reports and uploaded results.
“The onus of proof of conduct of credible elections should shift to INEC and winners of elections. The question of dumping election materials will not arise, as they would be produced and certified by INEC.
“Democracy cannot be consolidated, where the masses are asked to tighten their belts while elected public officers are paying themselves jumbo salaries and allowances.”
According to him, “Since democracy is under threat due to mass poverty, the political system must address the welfare and security of the people.”