Tuesday, April 3, 2007

As I noted in 'Constitutional Dilemma', I am a strong believer in the development of Nigerian Constitutional law through the constant back and forth of legal cases. Alas, I am presented with a salivating situation and I am chomping at the bit to figure it out. Unfortunately, as I am unfamiliar with the Nigerian legal system, I must confess that I am looking for clarification and will probably be on the phone a lot trying to get a clear answer.

Anyway, confusion has reared its ugly head today in Nigeria regarding Atiku's quest to represent the AC party in the April 21 presidential election. As you should know by now, his name was absent on a list of 'cleared' politicians eligible to run for public office. He was also recently indicted by a panel on charges of corruption. He promptly went to court and now there are 2 contradicting decisions on whether or not he can run for president.

Earlier today, I read that an appeals court in Abuja rejected Atiku's contention that INEC had no authority to disqualify political candidates. Based on this ruling, Atiku cannot contest in the upcoming election. However, another court in Abuja, The Federal High Court, also released its decision, which unlike the appeals court, declared that INEC lacked the power to disqualify candidates.

So, now what? That is the question. According to the BBC, the appeals court is a higher court and thus it's decision will trump that of the high court. If that is the case, then Atiku will not be running for the highest office in the land. He does, however, still have the option of taking his case to the supreme court.

But, the plot thickens even more. INEC apparently stated that it might have to delay the elections because it is involved, as a legal party, in a "multiplicity of litigation" that "threatens to derail the coming elections." The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) released a statement advising INEC to drop all cases because it lacks "the right of appeal as an umpire," and because "the appeals threaten the holding of the April polls." There is actually a case on point - Jesse Balowu v. INEC, which holds that INEC does not have the right of appeal and must not take sides with any candidates. Of course, the NBA's suggestion does not answer what INEC should do when it is named as a defendant in a case. At that point, it has to go to court and might still be able to argue that as long as it continues to be dragged to court, INEC cannot focus on its prime duty, namely the conduct of the elections.

I do not know which specific court issued this holding (Balowu v. INEC), but if the NBA is relying on it, I can only assume that the issuing court was competent and that it's holding should have prevented most of the current legal madness. Anyway, as is always the case with Nigeria, things get as e be. That being said, we all have to wait a little longer to figure out if Atiku will seek a decision from the Supreme Court (which would be able to settle the inconsistency between the appeals court and the High Court's rulings) and we also have to wait and see if INEC will find a basis upon which to delay the elections.

Now, if you have read this far and for some reason are not convinced that the current political and legal wrangling is cause for concern, here is a perfect example of why you should change your attitude, quickly. The Tribune reported that 8 people were killed during clashes between AC and PDP supporters in Ibadan on Monday. Nigeria is a country in flux and is currently standing on a precipice. It does not take much for violence to erupt and other than religion, there is nothing like politics to get people riled up. I simply wish that people would not allow themselves to be manipulated by individuals and forces that will be financially comfortable regardless of whether or not they run for office or win said office.

All Nigerians should be very concerned about the threat of violence as a result of the current political situation. We must allow our differences to be settled in courts and not on the streets with blood. As a wise old man told me "[f]ighting in court is much better than fighting in the streets. That is the most efficacious process for entrenching the rule of law. Everyone has legal recourse, and after a long drawn out battle, someone will win, someone will lose, and Nigerians will develop a sense of comfort with the process." Truer words have never been spoken.

4 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

snazzy said...

the appeals court ruling makes sense, in that it says INEC has the power to disqualify people that do not meet the required criteria.

the high court judge is apparently not supposed to make a judgment that could have a bearing on an issue being decided at a higher court but apparently the judge did not get the memo. He is probably going to go the way of the idiot in ibadan that gave a stay of execution on a supreme court decision.

So what is your take on peter obi's issue?

Waffarian said...

Great post! As usual, you got me thinking! My family lives in Warri so I am really concerned about the situation, Delta state is so fragile now, and we don't need "big men wahala", we are already deep in enough shit as it is. I hope they resolve this soon. I am going to call my lawyer friend and ask him to explain. I am also confused.


@ snazzy: Thanks for giving some insight on the situation. As for Peter Obi, I must unfortunately admit that I have not followed his situation closely enough to make a comment on it. I will try to learn about it.
Sorry for the delay in my response, had to take a slight hiatus. Thanks for stopping by, though.


@ waffy: My sista, all of Nija is fragile and nobody needs big boy wahala, sha. If you hear from your lawyer friends, please share your info.

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