A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, J. S. Okutepa, has bared his mind on the trending issues surrounding the Sacking of Emeka Ihedioha and declaring Uzodinma as the Executive Governor of Imo State.
In a statement made available to TheNigeriaLawyer (TNL), the learned silk faults politicians and other individuals that have been casting aspersions on the persons of the Justices of the Supreme Court over their verdict. He says such criticisms would affect the confidence that the public have on the Judiciary. The statement reads in part:
“Time has come to isolate our judiciary from political adjudication in election-related matters. The political class have no respect for judicial decisions and got no capacities to take decisions of courts without engaging in self-serving analysis of judgements with prejudices, to not only to misleading gullible public but to cast aspersions on the judges that delivered those judgments.
“Since Imo State judgment by the Supreme Court on 14th January 2020, the media has been inundated with all manner of analysis of the judgement rooted in accusations and counter accusations with name callings that portend grave danger for the confidence in our courts especially the Supreme Court.”
Okutepa, SAN admits that there may be error in that decision because even the Supreme Court itself has conceded in its decision in Adegoke Motors Ltd vs Adesanya and Anor (1989) LPELR-94 that:
“…we are not final because we are infallible, we are only infallible because we are final…” However, he suggests that castigating the judicial officers and institutions for reaching its decision is bad.
The learned silk says the votes that were added to Uzodinma leading to his victory were not generated by the Supreme Court, but were casted at polling Units by voters and stamped by INEC so there wouldn’t be basis for blaming the Supreme Court.
“In this Imo judgement the basis of judgments from what has been said so far is unlawful exclusion of votes in about 388 polling units. These votes were said to be above 215,000. These votes were said to have been announced at the polling units and copies given to party agents and security agencies. These votes were not generated in the Supreme Court. They were made object of issues for adjudication at the trial Tribunal till the Supreme Court. While not holding brief for the Supreme Court, why did INEC and security operatives allow these votes to be generated. Was it the Supreme Court that stamped the votes with INEC stamps. Are all those accusing the Supreme Court now not beneficiaries of our flawed electoral processes where no votes are recorded at polling units but have always taken advantage of the presumption of regularity of INEC documents written outside polling units, thumb printed by thugs and politicians.”
Okutepa, SAN added that not too long ago he made the points in his brief before the Supreme Court in December 2019 as follows:
“Aside from above, we urge your Lordships, the Supreme Court, being a policy Court to imbibe the Realist Jurisprudence and address the realities that confront our democracy today. Time is now for your Lordships to re-consider some of this electoral jurisprudence that are growing our country to become the Hobbian (Thomas Hobbes) state of life being “short, nasty and brutish”. As at the time your Lordships formulated the polling unit by polling unit rule, maker rule and the dumping rules, your Lordship did not anticipate the extent the politicians can go to scuttle the democratic will of the people.
“Time for the Supreme Court to save our democracy from gunshots democracy is now. The supreme Court is respectfully invited to take judicial notice of electoral rascality and impunity being exhibited by politicians and or a do or die elections in this country, which has made nonsense of the will of the people and the sovereignty of the people has become irrelevant.
“There is no dispute that your lordships are not unaware of undemocratic impositions where those who have woefully failed in governance have used force and altered results of elections to forced themselves on the Nigerian people.
“Time to interrogate the presumption of regularity of INEC result is now as INEC is just INEC in name and not INEC in reality. It is on this premises that your lordships are respectfully urged to hold that the CTC of documents tendered by the Appellants and demonstrated vide Exhibit PTH86 and through other witnesses called by the Appellants and admission made under cross examination were sufficient proofs of the irregularities pleaded in the petition. Time for your lordships to depart from the principles that makers of certified public documents be called, the theory of dumping documents and the insistent of calling polling units agents before irregularities in elections perpetuated at polling units, ward collation centres, local government collation centres and state collation centres in Nigeria can be said to have been proved is now. To continue holding unto these principles will not only put a judicial road blocks to attainment of electoral justice in Nigeria in election petition cases, but your lordships would have continued to unwittingly grant unbridled judicial license to politicians to engage in gunshot democracy, using thugs to scuttle the democratic will of the people and then rather than democracy where the will of the people prevails and rule of law triumph, our democracy will become the survival of the fittest and only those who use force will remain in power to the prejudices of the people. It would also means that engaging in electoral irregularities has become a profitable venture in Nigeria and only those who have the thuggish means, using means outside of legitimacy devoid of good governance can continue to rule the Nigeria people. Indeed your lordships would have unwittingly encouraged authoritarianism in electoral processes”.
He said this submission did not make impact on the minds of their lordships of the Supreme Court and the appeal was dismissed. The Supreme Court was hailed and praised then. He advised that Political class must be consistent in victory and in defeat. “You cannot hail what is wrong today and condemn the same thing tomorrow when it did not go your way.”
J. S. Okutepa therefore advised the public to respect the Judiciary and avoid tagging court judgments with politics.
“As a people we must show respect to the institution of judiciary. We cannot afford to take our judiciary to political theatre and subject it to the forensic political abattoir with the attendant unhygienic consequences thereto.
As a way out of this very dangerous part we about going through time has come to keep our judges out of electoral disputes or better still let the politicians leave our judiciary to decide their disputes based on the oaths the judicial officers have taken. The political class must not and should not use subterranean means to pervert the cause of justice and let the judicial officers do their jobs without fear or favour affections or ill will. We must maintain purity of justice in our land.”