IN the Nation newspaper edition of Wednesday, June 13, 2012, a group that called itself “Delta Elders & Leaders Council” took on the judiciary, questioning the integrity of judges and in sweeping generalisation accused judges of insensitivity to the future of our nation’s democracy. The premise for their attack on the judiciary is the outcome of the series of litigations associated with the Governorship Election in Delta State.
However, in using the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Delta State gubernatorial election suit as a platform to attack the judiciary, there is strong doubt that the author of the article is legally trained. Apparently, he does not understand the law and does not appreciate the contents of the judgment of the court. For one to appreciate the law, one must understand the facts of a given case as the judgment of a court is always premised on its own fact. That is why cases are never decided in a vacuum. A cardinal principle in law holds that you do not pull the decision of a case in its hair and apply it to another case.
THE KEBBI STATE ELECTION JUDGMENT
On February 24, 2012, the Supreme Court ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a fresh gubernatorial election in the state within 90 days. In a unanimous judgment the apex court nullified an earlier verdict of the Sokoto Division of the Court of Appeal which had affirmed Governor Usman Sa’idu Dakingari as the winner of the April 26, 2011 polls.
The Sokoto Division of the Court of Appeal had nullified the verdict of the Kebbi State Election Petition Tribunal, which had earlier sacked the governor of Kebbi State and ordered a fresh election in the state.
Although the Court of Appeal had made its judgment on December 29, 2011, well within the 60 day time limit allowed by the Constitution, reasons for the judgment were given on January 24, 2012 outside the time frame. Justice Walter Onnoghen who read the lead judgment maintained that “it is obligatory for the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court to dispose an appeal within 60 days from the date of the decision being appealed, since section 285 (7) implies that both the decision and the reasons for that decision, must be completed within the stipulated time. Any decision without a reason is no decision at all. The Judiciary has no option than to work within the time frame provided by the law.”
In effect, the learned Justices of the Supreme Court ruled that the only subsisting judgment is that given by the Kebbi State Election Tribunal that had earlier ordered a fresh election in the state.
THE SUPREME COURT JUDGMENT ON DELTA STATE
The same reason was adduced by the learned Justices of the Supreme Court when they ruled that the only subsisting judgment was that made by the Election Tribunal. Justice Tanko Muhammed who delivered the lead judgment nullified the verdict of the Benin Division of the Court of Appeal, which formed the bedrock of appeal to the apex court by Chief Great Ogboru, governorship candidate of the Democratic People’s Party (DPP).
The Supreme Court noted that the appeal court on January 5, 2012 gave its judgment but reserved its reason for the judgment to January 27.
From November 11, 2011 when the Delta State Governorship Election Tribunal delivered its judgment to January 27, 2012 when the Court of Appeal gave its reasons were more than 60 days allowed by the constitution.
The Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the Delta Governorship Election Tribunal, which had earlier upheld the declaration of Uduaghan as the winner of the election. So, where is the double standard recklessly alleged by the group?
ATTACK ON THE JUDICIARY
The time line for the adjudication of electoral cases was known to all even before the election was held. It is rather curious that the so-called Delta Elders & Leaders Council chose this time to unjustly attack the judiciary even after the DPP had gone back to the Supreme Court with a prayer that the apex court should review its decision on the issue.
It is unfortunate that they mentioned the name of the Honourable Chief Justice of the Federation when they knew he does not have the opportunity to respond. The Chief Justice has done what is right for the country and posterity will judge him well.
One also wonders why they resorted to the said publication after filing the suit at the Supreme Court. Decent behaviour requires that since the issue is now sub judice, they should have refrained from commenting on it.
The group will not end its tirade without routinely rehashing its well worn attacks on the Government of Delta State. Despite these attempts to distract the administration of Governor Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, he remains focused on his mission of transforming the economic landscape of Delta State.
CHIKE C. OGEAH Esq
Honourable Commissioner for Information
Asaba, Delta State