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S’Court’s Verdicts On Imo, Bayelsa

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The Supreme Court of Nigeria has since its decision on the Imo State governorship tussle on 14 January, 2020 found itself in the eye of the storm. In the decision, the candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), Emeka Ihedioha was sacked from office as Imo governor and replaced with candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Hope Uzodinma, who scored the fourth position in the polls. Uzodinma challenged the election result on account of some polling units that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) cancelled which he claimed were his strongholds.
These developments triggered pandemonium with scores of protests, criticisms, and finally, a petition to the apex court to revisit the matter. Apart from the declaration of APC candidate that emerged the fourth position as winner, the total votes after adding the excluded polling units which the apex court relied on to declare Uzodinma the rightfully elected governor in the election exceeded the total accredited votes in the election. Cursorily, this is absurd and catastrophic.
As the uproars are unending, and petitions fly sporadically from the PDP camp to any visible entities including the President of the United States of America, the Supreme Court on February 14 again shocked the nation by its decision on the Bayelsa pre-election petition in which it nullified the declaration of the APC candidate, David Lyon, as governor-elect, and ordered his replacement with the next candidate with highest votes and geographical spread.
By the verdict, the PDP candidate, Senator Douye Diri who polled 143,172 votes to emerge second position to APC’s Lyon with 352,552 votes was declared the rightful governor-elect, and sworn in shortly. APC’s votes were consequently categorized as wasted votes. By implication, only a total of 149,999 people representing valid votes determined the destiny of Bayelsans. The greatest blow was that Lyon was rehearsing for his inauguration scheduled the next day when the news broke out.
The second was that the mess resulted from Lyon’s running-mate, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo who presented controversial information to INEC among his requirement for the November 16, 2019 governorship election in the state. In other words, the sacked governor-elect had no case as an individual but merely for sharing a joint ticket, hence, shared liability. His case was akin to that of Moses in the Bible who saw the Promised Land but didn’t eventually enter. Thus, by the sins of his deputy, Lyon’s joy was cut short. This will take a lion’s heart to endure.
However, the two scenarios; Imo and Bayelsa verdicts, require highest degree of sensitivity, otherwise, they may set a wrong precedent. Thus, as the apex court has accepted to revisit the Imo verdict, the same gesture should be extended to Bayelsa as what is good for the goose is also sauce to the gander. Nonetheless, it is insentiently driving the apex court to be reviewing its decisions, meaning that end to litigation may henceforth become a myth. So, caution is germane in the quagmires.
But looking at the respective verdicts, could the apex court eventually reverse its decision in any of the matters? Though, it is rarely done, nevertheless, it isn’t impossible. “Justice must not only be done but seen to be done” as held in R v Sussex, ex parte McCarthy (1924) 1 KB 256, (1923) All ER Rep 233 by Lord Hewart CJ is a guiding principle in legal jurisprudence. But, holistically, the Imo verdict will rarely be reversed unlike the Bayelsa rulings on account of merits.
The first reason is jurisdiction which is key in legal system. As the votes of candidates weren’t among issues in the trial and appellate courts, the Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction to entertain it. As far as accredited and scored votes from the poll are concerned, the apex court was ‘blind and deaf’. The contentions before it were anchored on geographical spread and then, the exclusion of 388 polling units which APC candidate argued were his strongholds. The votes obtained by candidates weren’t in contention. And apart from Uzodinma, other contenders merely challenged PDP on ground of geographical spread for a rerun.
Importantly, by the geographical spread provided in Section 179(1)(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution, Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, Ihedioha shouldn’t have been declared the governor in the first place. This is a fundamental error or perceptively, a manipulation by INEC in favour of PDP candidate. Possibly, the target or plot was for Ihedioha to be positioned as incumbent ahead of a likely rerun for incumbency advantages.
On the perceived blunder of declaring APC candidate; fourth position a winner, to start with, it is imperative to note that the candidate of Action Alliance (AA), Uche Nwosu, who emerged the second position was earlier disqualified from the election for dual membership of political parties. On the other hand, the candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Ifeanyi Ararume who emerged the third position, only challenged Ihedioha’s victory for not meeting the two-thirds of the 27 LGAs of the state, and sought for a rerun.
Incidentally, by the inclusion of the votes in the hitherto excluded 388 polling units which Uzodinma successfully claimed, his votes automatically outnumbered PDP’s Ihedioha votes with geographical spread. Legal system allows technicalities, and differs from moral justice. Thus, what gave APC’s Uzodinma a win was the hitherto excluded votes, and not the contentions by Ararume who approached the court on geographical spread against Ihedioha’s declaration. And the court cannot metamorphose to electoral umpire if parties deemed it unnecessary to amply present their cases.
From record, APC’s candidate, Uzodinma contended that he won the election had his strongholds not been unjustifiably excluded. Without objection from any quarters and, or justification for the exclusion from the respondent, INEC, his prayers were granted accordingly. That’s the legal system.
It is also noteworthy that election petition is more or less a civil matter, hence determined by preponderance of evidence unlike criminal matters that are strictly by proofs beyond reasonable doubts as a standard. Suffice it to say that the learned Justices convincingly did justice to Imo governorship case, and will be justified and affirmed anywhere rationally.
On the Bayelsa verdict, the line the Justice Mary Peter-Odili-led panel toed may munchup the nation if not thoroughly reconsidered. The decision of the Court of Appeal was profoundly clearer and more logical. For instance, there’s no law that prohibits persons from change of names. Presently, the only requirements are affidavit and publication. That’s the law. The number of times is persuasive but not law. No doubt, it doesn’t reflect decency to have numerous affidavits for change of names.

Umegboro, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja.

 

Carl Umegboro

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Opinion

  Buhari’s Vault Face

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Since the end of the ruling party’s presidential primaries, and the selection of a Muslim running mate by the party’s standard bearer, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the voice of the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara, has been the loudest and the most critical, even though he is a member of the ruling party. He has posited that fielding a Muslim – Muslim ticket is an anathema in a multi-religious country like ours and a marked departure from nation-building. The former speaker is fully aware of the delicate balancing of geopolitical, tribal, and religious interests for the purpose of national cohesion and unity.

Dogara’s position is right on point, and he continues to espouse it boldly, even to the vitiation of his political capital. Unfortunately, Tinubu’s decision to choose a fellow Muslim was nothing new, rather it was a reenactment of what President Buhari started in 2015.
Since May 29, 2015, Nigeria as a country stopped making any significant effort toward nation-building. He might have exuded a frail visage, but his appointments were bold and telling. From the outset, his policies clearly signalled a Northern agenda. In hindsight, it is clear that President Buhari was lying in his inauguration speech, when he said, “I belong to no one, I belong to everyone”.

We know better today.  At no time in our history has this country been so close to the precipice. Armed men with more sophisticated weapons than the Nigerian Army have flooded our country, ravaging lives, destroying farmlands, raping our women, kidnapping for ransom, and impoverishing our people. As if that was not enough, we were recently ranked as the second most terrorised country in the world. Buhari’s government has repeatedly told Nigerians that Boko Haram has been technically defeated. They have been lying all along, and they know it. They also know that we know that they are lying. Sadly, that is the ministry of Lai Muhammed. Even the Nigerian economy is on the brink of collapse, and the exchange rate of $1 for N1000 is at hand.

Nigerians already know that we are operating phony federalism system. They are aware that our oneness as a nation has a certain uniqueness to it. For instance, the penal code is the judicial system in the North, while the South operates the criminal code. It is so seamless that most Nigerians are unaware of it. Is it bad? No. In fact, it makes for inclusivity, and it accommodates our diversity. However, the issue of insecurity, terrorism, and banditry is an entirely different kettle of fish. Since 2015, the clamour for state police has increased tremendously, sadly, the North heavy (borrowing the words of Governor Wike) National Assembly had hindered the debate from gaining traction. Even President Buhari’s comments and body language on the issue have not helped matters. Fortunately, on January 9, 2020, the governors of the South West forced the issue by setting up a regional security outfit tagged the Amotekun Corps to develop indigenous solutions to local security challenges. However, Amotekun Corps was denied the licence to carry arms.

Interestingly, the viral training video of a similar outfit set up by the home state of the president is about to change all that. In the video, Kastina State Vigilante recruits were seen parading the same AK-47 rifles that the federal government has refused Amotekun, even though the North West and the South West are facing the same existential threats. In his response to the viral video, Governor Rotimi Akeredulo of Ondo State accused Buhari’s administration of running one country with two systems. According to him “the video making the rounds showing the equivalence of the Western Nigeria Security Network (Amotekun Corps) in Katsina obtaining Federal Government approval to bear arms is fraught with great dangers,” “Denying Amotekun the urgently needed rights to legitimately bear arms is a repudiation of the basis of true federalism, which we have been clamouring for. That Katsina was able to arm its state security force with the display of an AK-47 means we are pursuing a one-country, two-system solution to the national question.

In his effort to extricate the police from any connections with the State Vigilante outfit, Isah unwittingly confirmed the obvious, because he said the vigilante in the state was not licensed to carry AK-47s, but they were only trained to use them. The follow-up question should have been, trained by who? Who has been licensed by the federal government to train people in the use of such sophisticated weapons? Further comments by the spokesperson made it difficult to believe neither the police IG, nor the federal government was not involved.  In his words, “The Vigilantes were trained on other arms and combat maneuvers. It is not that they were given a licence or that the federal government has approved that they should use AK-47 Riffles. They were just trained on how to defend themselves. And to be categorically clear, there is no member of vigilante in Katsina that is using that kind of weapon. It wasn’t issued to them by the Federal Government or State Government. They were just trained on how to defend themselves.

“It wasn’t the police that trained them, the police were not there when they were trained, we didn’t participate in the training, but what I know is what I am telling you. They were not issued with AK-47 riffles, but they were trained on how to defend themselves because bandits and terrorists are using AK-47 riffles.”
There was another viral video last week, this time from the terrorist group known as ISWAP. The content of the video portends danger for the people of the South West. The video showed ISWAP celebrating the attack on a police vehicle at Ipele in Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State. The video was in fact a statement by ISWAP signalling their presence in the South West. The video has given credence, and urgency to the demands of the Governor of Ondo State to arm the Amotekun Corps. As a governor, his first primary duty is the protection of lives and property; and with the freshness of the Owo massacre of June 5, 2022, in our memory, no one can question the audacity of his next line of action. We are in cusps of a showdown between Ondo State Government and the FG, and the fallout might answer the state police question once and for all.

By: Raphael Pepple

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Opinion

Towards Improved Education For Nigerian Children

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There is no gainsaying, education is vital to the development of any nation. It is a process through which individuals are made functional members of their society.
It is also a process through which the young acquire knowledge, realise their potentials and use them for self-actualisation to be useful to themselves and others. In every society, education connotes acquisition of  worthwhile knowledge.  That is the reason different countries of the world invest in qualitative education of the entire populace, especially the younger ones. Nigerian government is not left behind in the effort towards the attainment of Education for All. Recall that ten years ago,  the federal government constituted a 17 – member committee for integration of the out-of-school children from the South-South and South-East into the basic education system. Inaugurating the committee in Abuja, the then Minister of State for Education, who is now the Executive Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, decried the low number of enrolment for boys in the South-South and South-East. In his words, “In spite of the collective efforts of governments at all levels, we know that we are still far from our destination as far as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Education for All (EFA) are concerned. We know that we have made tremendous improvement in access and national enrolment but millions of our children particularly boys in South-South and South-East states are out of school”.
I think such commitment to addressing basic education challenges should be commended and encouraged for better result. In the South-eastern states,  the increasing boy-child dropout rate is a serious concern and one which will have a detrimental impact on the future of the region and the nation. In many families in this region, boys no longer have interest in education. This is basically because school graduates find it difficult to secure jobs that match their education. Thus, tthe younger generation see little practical value in staying in school beyond a few primary grades. Some parents equally see investment in the education of their children as a useless venture as such children often come back to them after graduation, failing to secure meaningful employment, when their counterparts in business have become, “millionaires”. So, the fundamental problem is our value system. The emphasis on wealth accumulation has trumped-up the core value of education. The family, society and even the education system teach our children to value wealth accumulation than the acquisition of knowledge and problem solving skills. A man’s worth is measured by his material acquisition, not minding how he got it.
This wrong value system, some people argue, is the reason for high rate of kidnapping, armed robbery and other social-vices prevalent in the country, particularly in South-East and South-South regions. Our youths are pre-occupied with an elusive chase for wealth which has prompted them to engage in unbecoming acts. Education experts also attribute the increasing number of out-of-school children in these states to poverty and poor quality of education leading to dissatisfaction from parents and opportunity cost as parents would rather have their children make extra money through hawking than going to schools.
This problem can be solved by governors of the South-South and South-East states declaring ‘total’  free education for primary and secondary school children. Adequate funding of the education system should be the priority of these governors, coupled with proper remuneration, training and discipline of teachers. Governments should ensure that funds allocated for out-of-school children are used for the slated purpose, ensuring that they carry out quality infrastructural works that would stand the test of time. There is need for Nigeria to emulate  other countries that provide for children who are not financially strong. Many of these children have talents within them that can facilitate a better Nigeria someday.
On the other hand, parents should also contribute to reducing the number of out-of-school children by ensuring that their children are planned for, so as to make it easier for them to be properly cared for. Parents should also be sensitised on the importance of education. They should be made to realise that no other investment has such a lasting effect as the education of children. Well-to-do citizens in the south-south and South-East states should support government programmes that will lift children out of poverty and ignorance and be of lasting benefit to future generations.

By: Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

Road To 2023 Elections

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The race is on for 2023 elections. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has published  names of the candidates sent by the political parties.  The candidates of the major political parties are sensitising and orientating the public about the importance of the 2023 general elections. The masses are not left out as they have vowed to vote in 2023 elections embarked on voters registrations which was a success in many parts of the country.  As it is now, the beam light is on the following presidential candidates; Senator Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu of APC, Atiku Abubakar of PDP, Dr Peter Obi of Labour Party and Rabiu  Kwankwaso of NNPP.
According to online report by republic. com, INEC made a case for the creation of a new commission to deal with electoral offences. The proposed commission was first mentioned as a recommendation from a committee to look into electoral reforms following the controversial 2007 elections. It was published by Late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and led by former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Muhammadu Uwais.
The Independent National Electoral Commission’s Chairman, Mahmoud Yakubu, stated that the commission’s efforts to improve the country’s electoral process would be ineffective unless electoral offenders were effectively prosecuted. He also asserted that INEC’s current mandate was exhaustive and made it difficult for it to effectively prosecute and litigate electoral offenders. He cited that, since 2015, only 60 of 125 cases of electoral offences filed in various courts have resulted in convictions. Indeed, politicians are  mending fences and some who were not favoured are defecting to new political parties. Serious political consultations are going on in the country. Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo,  has denied endorsing the presidential flag bearer of the All Progressives Congress.  In a statement, Obasanjo’s Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Akinyemi, said the news  of the endorsement by Obasanjo making the rounds, especially from supporters of Tlnubu, is unhelpful to 2023 general elections. In anticipation of public presidential campaigns (or rallies) candidates are beginning to pay more visits to key national and state stake-holders, or mobilisers. These visits also include traditional rulers as well as former national and political leaders, for what many of them describe as ‘seek their blessing’. Thus, to boost their political ambitions for 2023 elections, Atiku Abubakar, Dr Peter Obi and the Vice Presidential candidate of APC, Shetima, attended the Nigeria Bar Association 2023 conference in Lagos.  Indeed, the frontline presidential candidates for the 2023 elections were invited to address a plenary, general conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), which was held in Eko Atlantic  City, Lagos.  Atiku Abubakar, of the Peoples Democratic and Peter Obi, of the Labour Party attended and addressed the delegates present. Rabiu Kwankwaso, of the New Nigerian Peoples Party, was also invited but did not participate, while Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress was represented by his running mate, Kashim Shettima.
Candidates who attended used the opportunity to assess their popularity with members of the NBA. Atiku touched on his plans for devolution, Obi discussed his proposals to address employment, while Shettima said he would be responsible for the security affairs under a Tinubu presidency.  Supporters of Obi and Atiku have held forte for their candidates on social media with clips from the events.  The public space is charged with electoral discussions. Meanwhile, INEC has set September 28 as the date for political parties to begin public presidential campaigns (or rallies) across all the states in Nigeria. According to INEC, campaigns will last until 24 hours before the election. With the development, the spokespersons would sell their candidates within 150 days to the public before elections. The Nigerian electorate are anxious to participate in the 2023 elections. Do not sit on the fence, be part of the project 2023.

By: Frank Ogwuonuonu
Ogwuonuonu resides in Port Harcourt.

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