….. Calls for Thorough Investigation into Conduct of Tribunal Chairman
Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has submitted a formal petition to the National Judicial Council (NJC), raising concerns over an alleged miscarriage of justice in the Enugu State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.
The petition focused on the conduct of the tribunal’s Chairman, Justice Kudirat Morayo Akano, and her panel members during the adjudication of Petition No: EPT/EN/GOV/01/2023.
Addressed to the Chairman of the NJC, the petition highlighted critical issues related to the tribunal’s handling of the election dispute filed by Chijioke Edoga and the Labour Party, challenging the outcomes of the March 18, 2023, gubernatorial election in Enugu State.
A statement signed by the HURIWA National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, says the key point of contention in the dispute revolved around the authenticity of Governor Ndubuisi Peter Mbah’s National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) discharge certificate.
“The Enugu State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal was tasked with adjudicating Petition No: EPT/EN/GOV/01/2023. This petition was filed by Chijioke Edoga and the Labour Party, contesting the outcomes of the March 18, 2023, gubernatorial election in Enugu State, involving the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), Ndubuisi Peter Mbah, and the People’s Democratic Party.
At the heart of this electoral dispute lies a fundamental issue: the authenticity of Governor Peter Mbah’s National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) discharge certificate. The NYSC, a government institution, played a pivotal role in these proceedings by testifying that they did not issue the certificate presented by Governor Mbah. This revelation raised legal questions and concerns about the sanctity of a national institution and the principles of electoral integrity” the group stated.
HURIWA contended that the tribunal’s dismissal of compelling evidence and testimony from NYSC officials regarding the questionable nature of Governor Mbah’s certificate remained a cause for alarm, arguing that the decision raises questions about the tribunal’s commitment to truth and justice.
Another point of concern raised in the petition, according to the statement, was Justice Kudirat Akano’s appointment as the Chairman of the Enugu State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, despite her involvement in a previous case (Suit No: HED/48/2021), in Osun State, where allegations of forgery of selection documents, flagrant disobedience to court orders, and the use of incorrect Legal provisions for illegal appointments were raised.
“More pertinently, questions have arisen as to why Justice Akano was chosen to preside over a governorship dispute of such significance despite a petition to the NJC by the Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice’s Michael Agaasi on behalf of Adeniyi Sulaiman, a plaintiff in a case Akano struck out. Why was Justice Akano made the chairman of that panel when she had an allegation of a miscarriage of justice before the NJC?” the statement adds.
HURIWA emphasized that the Enugu State governorship dispute is of utmost importance due to the circumstances surrounding it, as the mishandling of the case would have far-reaching implications for justice and the rule of law in Nigeria.
The civil rights advocacy group called for a thorough and impartial investigation into the conduct of Justice Akano and her panel, a comprehensive review of the judgment, accountability for any miscarriage of justice, and measures to uphold the sanctity of national symbols such as the NYSC certificate.
“The NYSC certificate serves as a symbol of national unity and service. If individuals can present forged certificates without consequences, it undermines the credibility of all certificates issued in Nigeria and threatens the sanctity of our national symbols” it noted.
The organization said allowing an individual with a questionable certificate to remain in office sets a perilous precedent, as it will suggest that individuals can circumvent official procedures and use fraudulent documents with impunity, noting that the move was a threat to the integrity of Nigeria electoral system
HURIWA expressed the hope that the NJC will swiftly and justly address the concerns raised, to restore public confidence in the judicial system and ensure that justice is not only served but also seen to be served.
“The miscarriage of justice in Petition No. EPT/EN/GOV/01/2023 is a matter of grave concern that threatens the integrity of the electoral process and the rule of law in Nigeria. HURIWA implores the National Judicial Commission to take immediate and decisive action to investigate this matter thoroughly, review the judgment, and uphold justice. Failure to address this issue effectively could set a dangerous precedent and undermine the very foundations of our nation” the rights group said.