As the Supreme Court is set to hear the appeal filed by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State to challenge the judgment nullifying his election, the South-south Zone of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) has called on the justices of the court to use their judicial authorities address the conflicting judgments which emanated from the Court of Appeal on the use of the card reader machines in the last general election.
The group accused the lower appellate court of bias in its judgment in the Rivers State petition for nullifying Wike’s election when other divisions of the court upheld the elections of other respondents whose victories were challenged on account of the card reader machines.
In a statement made available to Thisday and titled: ‘Court of Appeal: A Cacaphony of Discordant Notes on the Same Legal Issues,’ the group appealed to the apex court to redeem the judiciary from what it described as the “odium and ridicule” brought upon it by the Court of Appeal based on its conflicting judgments on the issue.
In the statement signed by the its Chairman, Karl Chinedu Uchegbu, the CLO said when the courts speak with different voices on the same legal issues, there was real cause for concern.
It also said when justice is dispensed not according to law but according to the whims and caprices of the panel that sits on an appeal or the politicians involved in the appeal, there was cause to worry.
The civil society group added that it was happy when recently, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Muhmud Mohammed, revealed that he was disturbed over the conflicting legal pronouncements emanating from the Courts of Appeal on the same issues.
“When justice is dispensed not according to law but according to the whims and caprices of the panel that sits on an appeal or the politicians involved in the appeal, there is cause to worry for the judiciary is not only the last hope of the common man but the last hope of every citizen – the mighty and the down trodden alike. When no less a personality than the Chief Justice of Nigeria tells the Court of Appeal Justices to their faces that he is disturbed about the conflicting legal pronouncements emanating from their courts, it means that the judicial system is desperately in trouble,” it said.
To demonstrate the bias against Wike, the group quoted copiously the judgment of the Supreme Court delivered penultimate week by Justice John Inyang Okoro in the case of Mahmud Aliyu Shinkafi and Governor Abdulazeez Abubakar Yari of Zamfara State where he held thus: “My understanding of the function of the Card Reader Machine is to authenticate the owner of a voter’s card and to prevent multi-voting by a voter. I am not aware that the Card Reader Machine has replaced the voter’s register or taken the place of statement of results in appropriate forms. As it stands, it appears that the Appellants did not lead any evidence to prove over-voting.’’
The CLO also referred to the cases involving Jimi Agbaje vs Governor Akinwunmi Ambode in Lagos, the Oghenetega Emerhor and Great Ogboru vs Governor Ifeanyi Okowa in Delta State, among others where the Court of Appeal delivered judgments completely different from that of Rivers State.
Why suspecting foul play in the judgment of the Court of Appeal in the case of Rivers State, the group urged the Supreme Court to save the judiciary from ridicule.