Conflicting Court Orders: Nigerian Judiciary Must Be Insulated From Partisanship – PGF DG 

Godwin Amunde

The Director General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), – the umbrella body of Nigerian Governors elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr, Salihu Moh Lukman, said the need to insulate the Nigerian judiciary from the partisanship of individual judges is an important requirement for both the development of democracy and nation-building.

He also warned that the trend of political parties being seemingly managed by court processes is endangering Nigeria’s democracy.

He further noted that Nigeria is fast becoming a nation built with a negative attitude and primordial sentiments, and lamented that it is polarising the country.

The PGF DG stated this in a statement entitled “Nigerian Democracy and Challenges of Nation Building” issued to newsmen in Abuja on Thursday.

Part of the statement reads: “Once debates about the failure of leaders are not substantively about policy choices, it highlights manifest weaknesses of democracy. The fact that Nigerian democracy is not able to overcome the manifest weaknesses of inability to debate policy choices, is responsible for why, for instance, candidates for elections at all levels continue to campaign for the offices they contested even after results are declared, and notwithstanding that they may have lost the election.

“Immediately results were declared, the electoral contest moved to courts and the media. Victorious candidates and their parties and INEC, at best become respondents. And defeated candidates and their parties become the appellants. In this circumstance, the judiciary is then made to pass judgements almost coloured in partisan robes.

“As things are, Nigerian democracy is imperilled to the extent that even the routine issue of the day-to-day management of political parties in Nigeria has moved to the courts. Conflicting court orders are flying all over the place given by court judges.

“This has made the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, to exclaim that the situation of conflicting court orders ‘is compounded by cases on the leadership of political parties, thereby making the exercise of our (INEC) regulatory responsibilities difficult.

“In other words, what Prof. Yakubu was drawing attention to is the apparent looming danger of judicial anarchy in the country with respect to the management of political cases. This is not a matter that should be taken lightly. The positive development is that the leadership of the judiciary in the country are already alert to this danger given that the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad has given queries to many of the judges in the country involved in giving these conflicting orders.

“However, beyond these conflicting orders, the need to sanitise Nigerian judiciary should be broadened to cover issues of ensuring that judges with underlying political interests don’t preside over political cases in which their interest’s conflict with their judicial responsibility.

“Once judges with underlying political interests are allowed to preside over cases in which their interests are already in disagreement with their judicial responsibility, their decisions can be predictable. Just review most of Supreme Court Judgements on electoral matters since 2019, for instance, including minority judgements. There are judges whose political leanings can be confirmed by merely looking at the judgements.

“The need to insulate Nigerian judiciary from unethical influences of partisan commitment of individual judges is an important requirement for both the development of democracy and nation-building.”

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