*….Calls for Transparency, Judicial Independence, and Review of Recent Judgments
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) held a press conference today to address a matter of grave concern, highlighting recent events in Plateau State that have cast a shadow of doubt and suspicion over the integrity of the state’s judiciary.
In a statement signed by its National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, and made available to NIM, the organization raised questions about the impartiality of the judiciary and its role in ensuring fair and just elections in Nigeria.
According to the statement, “In a press conference attended by members of the press and concerned citizens, HURIWA expressed its deep concern over what appears to be a coordinated effort to issue contradictory judgments, particularly favoring the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the expense of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). These concerns go beyond post-election matters and extend to pre-election cases, which, according to established legal precedent, should not be revisited at the appellate level”.
One of the primary issues raised by HURIWA is the issuance of contradictory judgments by the Appeal Courts in Plateau State. “In some instances where the APC came in second, PDP candidates were removed, and the certificate of return was given to the APC, while in other cases where the APC came in third or lower, the courts ordered a rerun. HURIWA considers this inconsistency alarming and believes it raises suspicions of bias.
“Specifically, in the case of Plateau North Senatorial District won by Sen. Simon Mwadkwon of the PDP and the APC candidate coming in third, the Panel, in its judgment in Court of Appeal No. CA/J/EP/PL/SEN/12/2023 delivered on Sunday, October, 2023, curiously annulled the PDP’s victory and ordered INEC to conduct a rerun election among all the parties.
“In the case of Jos North/Bassa Federal Constituency won by Hon. Musa Agar of the PDP and where the APC candidate also came in third, the Panel, in its judgment in Court of Appeal No. CA/J/EP/PL/HR/14/2023 delivered on Friday, October, 2023, annulled the victory of the PDP and ordered a rerun excluding the PDP.
“In the third Appeal Case of Shendam/Quaan-Pan/Mikang Federal Constituency, won by Hon. Isaac Kwallu of the PDP with John Dafwan of the APC as runner-up, the Appeal Court Justices in Court of Appeal No. CA/J/EP/PL/HR/18/2023 annulled the victory of the PDP candidate, declared the APC candidate as the outright winner, and ordered that the Certificate of Return issued to the victorious PDP candidate be withdrawn and a fresh Certificate of Return issued to the APC candidate” the statement quoted.
Stating that Pre-election matters have also been subjected to judicial review, leading to the overturning of victories recorded by the PDP in the 2023 elections, HURIWA emphasized that the Court of Appeal did not deliver judgments based on the law and the facts, as the law dictated, stressing that this inconsistency with established legal norms and principles raises concerns about the independence of the judiciary.
“Furthermore, allegations against the President of the Court of Appeal, Hon. Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, have added to the scrutiny. While there is no concrete evidence of her involvement in any impropriety, speculations regarding her ethnic background and perceived connections to the Plateau State APC leader are concerning” it added.
The rights group called for an immediate halt to the perceived systematic use of the judiciary to favor the APC in Plateau State, outlining several key actions to address the concerns, including the need for transparency and accountability within the judiciary, emphasizing judicial independence, and the review and reconsideration of recent judgments that appear inconsistent with established legal norms.
HURIWA underscored the importance of restoring public confidence by adhering to the principles of fairness, justice, and impartiality within the judiciary, and stressed the significance of educating the public about the roles and functions of the judiciary to foster a better understanding of its importance in Nigeria’s democracy.
The Association reaffirmed its commitment to the rule of law, democracy, and justice, pledged to monitor developments in Plateau State and across the nation to ensure that the rights of the people are upheld, while also calling on all stakeholders, including the judiciary, political parties, and the public, to work together to protect and uphold the values that define Nigeria as a nation.