Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Bonn, Germany

Wheels of justice grind slow but grind fine (Sun Tzu)

The judiciary must be strengthened and released from political interference (Aung San Suu Kyi)

The bedrock of our democracy is the rule of law and that means we have to have an independent judiciary, judges who can make decisions independent of the political winds that are blowing (Caroline Kennedy)

If we want truth and justice to rule our global village, there must be no hypocrisy. If there is no truth, then there will be no equality. No equality, no justice. No justice, no peace. No peace, no love. No love, only darkness (Suzy Kassem)

n Wednesday, May 8, 2019, the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, sitting in Abuja, commenced the pre-hearing session on four petitions that are seeking to invalidate President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election. Out of the four petitioners, Atiku has the strongest case against the declaration of President Buhari as the winner of the February 23 presidential election. We all know that the presidential election was a charade, and what happened here have proved Joseph Stalin, the Russian strongman, right, when he said that “those who cast the vote decide nothing but those who count the vote decide everything” - Nigerians voted and INEC wrote the result.

The Judiciary is the only hope left that the wrong perpetrated by INEC and the APC will be righted. The problem we have is that the Nigerian judiciary is as corrupt as the INEC. We have seen, heard, and read how our judges are compromised. The Nigeria Police Force, power sector, education, judiciary, and the health ministry have been ranked as the top five most corrupt institutions in Nigeria. According to saharareporters, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) established the ranking, after a survey was carried out across the six geopolitical zones in the country, including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Also, a judicial advocacy group, Access to Justice, has urged that a state of emergency should be declared in the country’s justice system. The group said the Nigerian judiciary needs an urgent reform so it could serve the citizens’ expectations of a truly independent institution that is confident of the integrity of its members as well as one that enjoys the confidence of the people.

The fact that Nigeria has a number of corrupt judges is common knowledge in the country. According to CNBC Africa, over the years, there have been various allegations of corruption in the judiciary. In 2013, two High Court judges were suspended and recommended for retirement by the National Judicial Council for misconduct bordering on corruption. Similarly, in 2016, a raid carried out by the Department of State Services revealed that cash worth USD$800,000 had been found in the homes of senior judges suspected of corruption.

Judicial corruption reduces public confidence in the country’s justice system. This means that suspected incidents of misconducts are less likely to be reported given the prevailing belief that justice is unlikely to be served. Similarly, it can affect the attitude of investigators and prosecutors who might have less incentive to investigate and prosecute cases diligently. While it would clearly be an exaggeration to accuse all judges in Nigeria of corruption, it is reasonable to conclude that corruption remains a problem.

This case, Atiku vs. Buhari will be a chance for the judiciary to prove its independence. I hope this case will be the opportunity for them to prove that there are still very few upright men and women on the bench. They should start a new beginning. The acting Chief Judge of the federation even boasted that no human being, except God, can influence their judgment. Nigerians don't believe him, but, for the benefit of the doubt, let them prove it in this case, as we are putting him on notice that we'll be waiting and watching what will happen here. Unfortunately, it will take a long time before all legal options will be exhausted by the two parties, as the case will finally get to the Supreme Court. Atiku and the other petitioners had 21 days, after the election, to file their petitions – which they have done. Then, the Tribunal has now 180 days to deliver a judgment. And the Supreme Court will have 90 days to deliver judgment, assuming the case gets there.

That was one of the problems the amended electoral bill wanted to solve, but Buhari refused to sign it into law. The amended electoral bill wanted to make it possible for all litigations to be concluded before the elected officials are sworn in. Now, because Buhari refused to sign the bill, he will be inaugurated, for a second term, on May 29, even though his second tenure might be short-lived, assuming the courts quash his election. Even at that, everyday Buhari stays in office, as from May 29, will be a punishment imposed upon millions of suffering Nigerians.

It's unfortunate that Nigerians will have to wait for about a year, from now, to really know if Atiku will retrieve his mandate or not with the help of the judiciary. Whatever that happens, the poor Nigerians, who voted for Atiku has no other option but to resign themselves to divine providence. They are not like the Sudanese. Due to the heterogeneous nature of the Nigerian society - religion, region, and relation -the poor can't unite. They forgot that what unites them is more than what divides them. Instead of being united by poverty and hardship of things, they allowed the political class, misruling them, to be playing them against one another by playing the tribalism card.

Nigerians are ready to wait while this case last. We are ready to give the judiciary all the time it needs to decide on this case. I agree that sufficient time must be allowed for the Tribunal or court to expatiate on the cases before it. The judges, the Atiku's lawyers, and the Buhari's lawyers should do their best to make sure that justice will be served.

Atiku's lawyers should argue their case well in order to convince the Tribunal that the malpractices, which happened during the election, were enough to influence the outcome in favor of Buhari. The Atiku's lawyers should do a first class job, as such that if they become victorious, no higher court will overturn that victory - let their work makes it imperative that even if Buhari appeals their victory on another planet, he will still lose. Let them remember that the onus is on Atiku to prove his case, and not on Buhari to prove that the election was not rigged in his favor. Heaven knows that Atiku won that election. But, if for any reason the Tribunal or courts refuse to retrieve the mandate for Atiku, they will live with the repercussion of that decision for the rest of their lives.

Borrowing words from Stephen Hanson, one would wonder why it takes so long for decisions to be made in our court systems and in our government today. Indeed, in Nigeria, the wheels of justice do turn ever so slowly, and yet I doubt that they grind exceedingly fine. Instead, it seems that the wheels of justice turn perhaps in the other direction, grinding out stones that become even coarser. In fact, it’s such a slow process these days that one would wonder how anything can ever get decided.

Every day we see the machinery of justice breaking down all around us. The apparatus is broken, the system needs to be repaired and yet, there is no one skilled enough to fix a broken system when its players continue to follow a plan that only leads into more and more confusion and dysfunction.

We are told that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” The folly of a system that has so much red tape in it would make one wonder if anything could ever be done. The wheels of justice do indeed turn ever so slowly, but the time will come when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream, (Amos 5:24).

To be continued!

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Trouble with the Nigerian justice system —Lawyers, judges