Some of those that repeatedly accuse the Nigerian judiciary, especially the Election Petitions Tribunals, the High Courts, the Federal High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of mandate usurpation and truncating the genuine wish of the people expressed in their votes know that they are not telling the Nigerian people the whole truth.
Some of those that accuse the courts and the tribunals of undemocratic imposition of candidates and the retention of mandate fraudsters are aware that it is disingenuous to accuse the Nigerian judiciary of unbridled interference in the process of electing various categories of public officers when they know that courts and tribunals do not lightly interfere with the voting preferences of the people unless it is glaring that what some people call an election is a fraud. I am saying that the purveyors of mandate usurpation narrative are not telling the whole story because, some of them see an election and the electoral process from the jaundiced lenses of a one-day Election Day dash. An election is not a one-day dash but a series of interconnected events.
“In Kanhiyalal Omar v. R.K. Trivedi & Others103 and Union of India v. Association for Democratic Reforms & Another104, the Supreme Court of India, for example, stated that the word ‘election’ is used in a wide sense to include the entire process of election which consists of several stages and it embraces many steps, some of which may have an important bearing on the result of the process.
These stages include voter registration; political party and candidate registration; the allocation of state resources and access to media; campaign activities; and the vote, count, tabulation and declaration of results. Lady Justice Georgina Wood, the former Chief Justice of Ghana, made the same point and added other stages when she stated: “The electoral process is not confined to the casting of votes on an election day and the subsequent declaration of election results thereafter.
There are series of other processes, such as the demarcation of the country into constituencies, registration of qualified voters, registration of political parties, the organisation of the whole polling system to manage and conduct the elections ending up with the declaration of results and so on.” And according to the European Human Rights Committee, the process also includes the right to challenge the election results in a court of law or other tribunal.”
In the Kenyan case of Karanja Kabage v. Joseph Kiuna Kariambegu Nganga & 2 Others, the High Court stated that “an election is an elaborate process that begins with registration of voters, nomination of candidates to the actual electoral offices, voting or counting and tallying of votes and finally declaration of the winner by Gazettement. In determining the question of the validity of the election of a candidate, the court is bound to examine the entire process up to the declaration of results… The concept of free and fair elections is expressed not only on the voting day but throughout the election process…
Any non-compliance with the law regulating these processes would affect the validity of the election of the Member of Parliament.”
It is therefore clear that the electoral management body and all the critical stakeholders in the electoral process have an obligation to conduct an election in “a simple, accurate, verifiable, secure, accountable and transparent manner” and this process encompasses all the stages of an electoral cycle. I agree that some decisions emanating from some Election Petitions Tribunals and the courts can hardly be justified. Some of the decisions are not only bizarre but smacks of disrespect to the electorate that trooped out to cast their votes believing that ultimately their votes will be the determinant of who is elected to represent them.
But as with all aspects of human endeavour, nobody can claim omnipotence. All are prone to mistakes but when such mistakes are deliberately contrived, it becomes problematic and the people are entitled to complain.
Unfortunately, it is the bad decisions of some of our courts and tribunals that are given prominence and the seminal and ground-breaking ones are hardly celebrated. I am forced to return to the issue of mandate usurpation because we are fast approaching what may appear to be a frenzied electoral period and the National Assembly appears to be the leading institution that may trigger a big judicial contest.
is also clear to me that we may have a deluge of pre-election disputes in a season when we are yet to conclude alteration to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to provide timelines for the conclusion of pre-election disputes.
It is also clear to me that we are still under the illusion that there can ever be a second election in Nigeria and that presidential elections must always be conclusive on the first ballot and based on that we have refused to make a determination whether the electoral management body, the security agencies and the critical stakeholders in the electoral process have the capacity to reverse its logistics and prepare on time to conduct such a second election within a period of seven days of the declaration of the inconclusive election.
It is also clear that with the dominance of two political parties in Nigeria and the realignment, repositioning and cross carpeting that may likely take place before the election, candidates and political parties may be desperate to win the 2019 elections and in the process may engage in unwholesome activities.
Therefore, the court and the Election Petitions Tribunals are part of the electoral process and have been constitutionally and legally primed to assist political parties and candidates maintain electoral integrity and retrieve illegally and unconstitutionally acquired mandate.
The courts and the tribunals are part of the electoral process and their mandate and the limits of their mandate have been constitutionally defined and delineated. One thing is clear, the courts and the Election Petitions Tribunals do not hustle for cases and petitions. The courts and the Election Petitions Tribunals remain dormant and inactive unless an aspirant, a candidate, a political party or an individual approaches with a suit or petition and activates their jurisdiction.
This must of necessity be so because sovereignty belongs to the people and it is the responsibility of the people to elect those that will govern them and when hustlers, electoral merchants and entrepreneurs undermine the will of the people, the people are entitled to a mechanism of redress.
As the Tanzanian High Court stated in the old case of Madundo v. Mweshemi & A-G Mwanza71: “An election petition is a more serious matter and has wider implications than an ordinary civil suit. What is involved is not merely the right of the petitioner to a fair election but the right of the voters to non-interference with their already cast votes i.e. their decision without satisfactory reasons.”
We must brace up for more litigation relating to the 2019 election. We must determine whose responsibility it is to sequence the order of elections and this determination may likely be made by the courts. I have looked at items 14 and 15 of the Third Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria relating to the powers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to fix the order of elections.
The constitution gives the commission the power to organise, undertake and supervise certain category of elections. My understanding is that to organise includes and encompasses to put in order, arrange, classify, categories, fix and make plans for the conduct of an election.
Therefore, the power to fix and classify and order the sequence of elections cannot be taken away from INEC without constitutional alteration. But the National Assembly as the constitutionally ordained lawmaking institution feels otherwise.
The stage is therefore set for a battle of wits between the National Assembly and the forces that see the reordering of the elections as unconstitutional and or meant to give undue advantage to members of the National Assembly. I am also convinced that the courts will be called upon to adjudicate on many pre-elections matters and matters bothering on the interpretation of the constitution culminating in petitions to the election petitions tribunals. Our plea is that the political parties should put their house in order and play by the rules and free the courts to concentrate on other aspects of human endeavour.
All the critical stakeholders should endeavour to assist in the conduct of election that is “simple, accurate, verifiable, secure, accountable and transparent manner” and the courts and the tribunals will not have cause to intervene and or interfere in affirming or nullifying such an election.
Killer Spouses: Let’s halt the madness
The alarming rate of spousal murder in our world calls for collective attention and action. The gruesome phenomenon is fast assuming frenetic dimension in our family life. One begins to wonder how and why lovers who voluntarily came together as husband and wife suddenly engage in extreme hostility with each other. Attending wedding ceremonies these days often agitate my mind as scary tales of abuse and violence that emanate from some of the new homes shortly after the fanfare are on the increase.
I have written articles to address some knotty marital issues that do result in the untimely and painful death of the spouses. Initially, only women were usually the victims of domestic violence. Somewhat, the hunter has now become the hunted as wives now do hack their husbands to death in the course of fighting or as reprisals. Our media is daily being inundated with sour news of one form of spousal death or the other.
Since the June 24, 2011 case of Akolade Arowolo who stabbed his banker wife, Titilayo, to death, over a score of such dastardly spousal murder cases had been reported in the media.
This is aside the unknown or covered-up cases especially in the remote places. An autopsy report revealed Titilayo was stabbed 76 times. However, the culprit did not escape the full weight of the law. He was sentenced to death February 21, 2014.
The new lethal fad these days seems to be spousal killings perpetrated by the wives. The Nigerian Police recently confirmed the arrest of Maryam Sanda for stabbing her husband Bilyaminu Haliru Bello to death. Reports claimed she killed her husband by stabbing him multiple times after seeing text messages in his phone which suggested that he was engaged in an extra-marital affair. Also, there’s the recent case of a lawyer, Mrs. Udeme Odibi, who, after stabbing her husband to death in his sleep, cut his genitals and placed them in his right hand while his stomach ripped open with the intestines spilling out.
These are just a tip of the soaring cases of spousal murder dotting our marital landscape these days. I keep wondering what usually go wrong in loving, sweet, and honey-like affairs that now end in tragedies.
Does it mean that sweet words and ecstatic moments of romance are superficial? Despite costly wedding ceremonies, how come this sad end? I hereby offer a four-prong suggestions as a way to stem this mournful scourge:
i. The parental roles must be reactivated right from the platonic (nonsexual) friendship level as parents must care to know who their children are moving with. In the ages past, parents often determine which families their children would marry from. Customarily, they will investigate the would-be in-laws’ lineage to know if there’s any illness, mental case, premature death, poverty, bareness, marital failure, spiritual issue or social stigma that was common in the family.
More often than not, children rarely reject the choices of their parents because they knew parental decisions were in their best interest. Virtually all the marriages midwifed by parental arrangements in that era endured.
Despite challenges, the marriages survived the odds because the parents were the ‘sureties’ and arbiters at every point of need or crisis. Respect for parents, desired to be responsible couples, fear of stigma in case of divorce, protection of children and family names or reputation were pivotal to the success of marriages at that time.
Regrettably though, Titilayo’s father, Mr. Oyakhire, confessed that the Arowolos’ marriage had been characterised by violence and abuse but he never envisaged it will end in the death of his daughter. Keeping people together in hostile relationships or marriages will ultimately end in regret. Parents must get involved henceforth!
ii. The Church or religious leaders must find a solution to these murderous tendencies in the society. I want to suggest that fathers of faith should replicate what the Apostles did in Jerusalem (Acts 15) when they met to resolve the doctrinal issues bothering on circumcision.
As Holy Spiritfilled oracles of God, decisions should be reached as to how long warring or violent partners should stay together to avoid untimely deaths. Pretending not to allow separation in the name of being sanctimonious is an act of cowardice.
Couples that die during assaults or physical combats might not make heaven because they die in bitterness and wrong frame of mind. iii. The society should stop stigmatizing separated or single parents.
This wrong perception do ‘force’ couples to remain in abusive or acrimonious relationships. Neighbours and people around disputing couples should please wade in quickly to avoid stories that touch the heart.
For instance, before lawyer Odibi stabbed her husband to death, her neighbours confirmed that Mr. Odibi had earlier alerted his friends and his mother that his wife threatened to kill him which eventually happened. Police should have been invited immediately Odibi raised the alarm. Perhaps the story would have been different today.
Please let’s be our brothers and sisters’ keepers. iv. Disputing couples should seek help from relationship counsellors. Family and friends should encourage them to do so in order to salvage the families in crises.
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Uprising in APC, who is surprised?
“Blind party loyalty will be our downfall. We must follow the truth wherever it leads.” – DaShanne Stokes
What the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has been displaying to the country in the last three weeks ahead of its long overdue National Convention merely gives credence to the assertion of a British statesman Benjamin Disraeli that “There is no act of treachery or meanness of which a political party is not capable; for in politics there is no honour.”
But in the case of APC only persons handicapped in political punditry will express shock and surprise at the ongoing “war” in the ruling party. The squabble has yet again popularized the word parallel. The same way “inconclusive” was popularized by the Independent National Commission (INEC), under this regime.
When clouds gather the weather man tells us, the next thing is for the rain to pour and they dispatch advisories alerting us to travel dry. APC cloud have been gathering for the past three years and it’s just about to pour. All efforts by experienced hands in their system to proffer what to do to avoid the rain, fell on deaf ears as the system got hijacked by some cabals whose understanding and scope of national politics is pigeon holed in their narrow ethno-religious view point. Suddenly here we are the chicken is home to roost and the party is now right inside the rain already. In fact, it has been drizzling all the while ahead of 2019.
The inability of the ruling party to hold serious National Executive Council (NEC) meeting for over two years derives from this reality that the foundation of the house wrongly laid was cracking.
The early declaration of second term intention by President Muhammadu Buhari was intended to avert it, but from all indications it has failed to achieve the desired result. Aware that it must pour some “rain makers” wearing the garb of 20 APC state governors were brought in to prevent its pouring by proposing tenure elongation for National Chairman John Odigie-Oyegun and his team a way of shifting the evils day, but the other higher forces led by President Buhari and former Lagos State Governor Ahmed Tinubu routing for former Edo State Governor Adams Oshiohmole for the national chairmanship refused, saying they won’t mind it pouring. Buhari and Tinubu had their way and a congress was ordered and here and now the party is soaked in their own blooper.
It is pouring in torrents, the grounds are all wet, fear of slipping off the ground now grips everybody, the movement is now gingerly to avoid the great fall. The arrogance is now giving way to reason, the rebellious new PDP in their fold hitherto written off before as inconsequential is now getting a hearing, reality is now downing. Will APC survive this their new disease called “parallel congress” will it be able to reduce its 72 state chairmen emerging from its parallel congresses into 36 states as required by the constitution of the party?
How would it be able to contain the anger of some of its henchmen being inconvenienced by these developments?
We have seen from APC congresses that even the rich are also crying and that master riggers can also be rigged out.
In Imo State, Governor Rochas Okorocha who was at the forefront of the anti-tenure elongation group because he wanted the state executive not loyal to him removed so that he can replace them found himself not at the commanding position where he yells orders but at the lamentation table crying for whoever desires to listen. What it takes for the best village dancer to lose his crown in the village square is just for somebody to study his dancing steps and add one or two more calisthenics and you are an edge ahead.
Governor Okorocha the Generalissimo of Imo politics suddenly is running helter-skelter in search of platform. His inordinate desire to enthrone his son in-law as his successor and the daughter as the successor to the wife in the First Lady position appears seriously threatened. The Owelle who had crowned himself the face of APC in Igboland is now a crying baby.
In the neighbouring Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi’s unhidden agenda to inflame the state all in desperation to stop Governor Nyesom Wike appears hooked in internal squabbles as he is dagger drawn with his own strongest ally Senator Magnus Abe. The gun movie in Port Harcourt a forth night ago by Amaechi’s supporters to shot down law court remains yet another sour point of this administration in its relationship with the judiciary.
Not even the almighty Jagaban himself, the Asuwaju of APC is having easy ride as the party’s National Legal Adviser Muiz Banire insisted on creating parallel structure in Lagos.
The fragile romance between Senate President Bukola Saraki and the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, established in 2015 to enable the minister scale through Senate screening has crumbled and they have all returned to their trenches as shown in the parallel congress from Kwara State.
Speaker Yakubu Dogara who has had poor relationship with his state Governor Mohammad Abubakar was hit below the belt as not even his ward was he able to influence despite the yeoman job he is reported to be doing in his constituency.
In Enugu the hitherto apolitical Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, literally suspended his diplomatic gentleness and went about with thugs in yet another parallel congress.
Nothing less was expected from Kaduna State because of the high level of animosity already between the diminutive state governor, Nasir el rufai, and the irrepressible senators from the state led by the “deodorant and insecticide” Senator Shehu Sani.
The crisis rocking the ruling APC as validated by the ward, local government and state congresses, and most likely to be seen at its National Convention is pervasive and reflects the status of the party at the moment.
Since June 9, 2015 when it could not agree as a party on who should head the legislative arm controlled by it, APC has been jumping from one problem to the other.
Even right inside the Presidency, the much-expected cohesion and harmony have not been seen.
When early in the administration the President was accused of filling the whole position around him with his ethnic and religious allies refusing to recognize the nationality of his positions, he reacted angrily by saying he was appointing those he knows and who can do the work for him. But despite that this Presidency has been the most divided since 1999.
Few samples will suffice here; we have all witnessed the infighting among two security bodies, the EFCC and DSS all reporting to the President. Nigerians saw how the President submitted for confirmation twice Ibrahim Magu and twice DSS wrote a report that he was not eligible for the job. We all saw the show of shame when the operatives of the two agencies came on the streets of Abuja before camera with weapons flexing muscles.
Therefore, if we are not expecting biologically that a goat gives birth to a sheep why are Nigerians surprised that a party that produced such elementary performance in governance amidst apparent confusion would turn overnight to have a smooth and transparent political congresses?
It’s perhaps against this backdrop that the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other political watchers are crying from the roof top, to the international community and all lovers of democracy that this administration is incapable of conducting a free, fair and credible general election.
The party is relying on some empirical points already on display lately to even warn that democracy is seriously under threat and the prevailing circumstances are not providing an enticing signs.
What has come very glaring from the APC impasse is that the great conspiracy of 2014 to grab power at all cost that gave birth to APC has crumbled? It was intended to metamorphose into a political party to change our society for the better, but all the manifestations have been showing otherwise. No wonder great players in the conspiracy like former President Olusegun Obasanjo are chickening out and the pack appears to be fragmenting. God help Nigeria.
Legal, constitutional ignorance in voters’ registration
The framers or designers of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999(as amended) and the Electoral Act, 2010(as amended) envisage that those that will be elected and eventually assume office under the constitution must be elected through the legitimate votes of the Nigerian people. The legitimate voters on Election Day are qualified registrants whose names are on the voters’ row. The legitimate voters are those that have attained the majority age of 18 years and do not suffer age disability and other disqualifying conditions.
Fidelity to the constitution and the law presupposes that on no account must anyone including the political parties, candidates in an election, the electoral management body and other stakeholders in the electoral process manipulate or skew the voters’ register in such a way as to deliver predetermined outcomes. A fraudulent voters’ row anchored on strange names, unqualified registrants and those that suffer registration disability can only deliver predetermined and strange outcomes.
Electoral democracy demands and envisages that that those that must exercise their democratic franchise are those that understand the process and the values of electoral democracy and have the capacity to make informed choices. Conscious, informed and rational choices can only be made by those that understand the electoral process, understand the demands of democracy; understand the programmes and policies of candidates and political parties; are able to decipher the real from the unreal and understands the truth as opposed to propaganda.
Unfortunately, sometimes, democracy and the electoral process can deliver bizarre outcomes and those that are seen to be rational and can make informed choices make choices that are difficult to understand and explain. But having attained the age of 18 years, the law and the constitution ascribe maturity to those that are 18 years and above and ascribe the ability to make choices to them whether those choices are really informed or not.
The Electoral Act, 2010(as amended) (designed to regulate the conduct of Federal, State and Area Council elections) has made elaborate provisions for the registration of persons qualified to vote. The framers of the 1999 Constitution and the designers of the Electoral Act built in safeguards that will ensure that only qualified Nigerian registrants are able to register. The designers of the Electoral Act understand the diversity of the country and took into consideration this diversity in the formulation of the registration procedures. The designers of the Electoral Act understand that society is dynamic and that population movement and other emergencies may affect registered voters requiring them to move from one place to the other. The designers of the Electoral Act know that some persons may decide to undermine the voters’ registration process and prescribed stiff punishment for such elements.
Section 9 of the Electoral Act gives the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the exclusive right to compile, maintain, and update on a continuous basis, a National Register of Voters which shall include the names of all persons entitled to vote in any Federal, State or Local Government or Area Council elections.
More importantly, the Electoral Act recognises the fact that Nigeria is a big country and that on a continuous basis, the youth of our country attains the age of 18 and are qualified to be registered and to vote in an election. The designers of the Electoral Act know and appreciate the fact that it will be unconstitutional and undemocratic to insist that those that attain the age of 18 years immediately after a general elections cycle must wait for four years before growing up as voters. The issue of continuous voters’ registration is more germane with the institutionalization of “off season” elections that have become a permanent feature of our electoral process.
Election Petition Tribunals and the courts in the exercise of their constitutional, judicial and electoral duties and functions have more or less permanently rescheduled elections in some of the states of the federation. The states include Edo, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti. The National and State Assemblies have recorded deaths and removals of members and the vacancies created in these states must be filled. On the basis of these, section 10 of the Electoral Act provides that there shall be continuous registration of all persons qualified to be registered as voters.
Each applicant under the continuous voters’ registration system shall appear in person at the registration venue with any of the following documents, namely, birth or baptismal certificate; national passport, identity card or drivers licence; or any other document that will prove the identity, age and nationality of the applicant.
Ordinarily, a person shall be qualified to be registered as a voter if such a person is a citizen of Nigeria; has attained the age of 18 years; is ordinarily resident, works in, originates from the local government/area council or ward covered by the registration centre; presents himself to the registration officers of the commission for registration as a voter; and is not subject to any legal incapacity to vote under any law, rule or regulation in force in Nigeria.
Furthermore, no person is permitted to register in more than one registration centre and any person that registers in more than one registration centre commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding N100, 000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or both.
The framers of the constitution recognise that Nigerians are entitled to freedom of movement and association. The movement of Nigerians from one ward, local government or state may be voluntary or involuntary. The movement from one place to another may be involuntary in the case of natural displacement caused by natural disasters or environmental factors. The movement of Nigerians may be due to conflict arising from ethnic, communal, pastoral and religious issues. The movement may be due to other factors not envisaged by the lawmakers. It is in this wise that registered voters can transfer their registration from one registration area to another. Hence, a person who before the election is resident in a constituency other than the one in which he was registered may apply to the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of the state where he is currently resident for his name to be entered on the Transferred Voters’ List for the constituency. The REC shall enter the person’s name in the Transferred Voters’ List if he is satisfied that the applicant is resident in a polling area in the constituency and is registered in another constituency. Thereafter, the electoral officer of the new constituency on the direction of the REC shall assign that person to a polling unit or a polling area in his constituency and indicate in the list the polling unit to which that person is assigned; issue the person with a new voter’s card and retrieves his previous voter’s card; and send a copy of the entry to the electoral officer of the constituency where the person whose name has been so entered was originally registered and upon receipt of this entry, the electoral officer shall delete the name from the voters’ register.
It is not right and amounts to double registration and a criminal offence for a registered voter to throw away his/her Permanents Voter’s Card and queue for new registration simply because they moved from one registration area to another. Double registration may lead to the excision of the name of a double registrant from the voter’s register using improved technology that detects multiple registrants.
The INEC through the RECs and the Electoral Officers in the various local governments must use the platform of the schools, the churches, the mosques, traditional and religious leaders, the labour movement, the civil society groups and other professional bodies to educate and enlighten the public on the clear provisions of the law relating to the registration of voters.
Nigerians must not be allowed to lose their right to vote on account of legal and constitutional ignorance. It is well and fine if a person chooses not to register. It is well and fine if a person chooses not to vote. The question remains, why do certain persons and parties take special interest in manipulating and corrupting the voters’ register?
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