Supreme Court

Jan 14, 2020 Vs Justice: An Open Letter to the Supreme Court of Nigeria on Imo – By Ariyo-Dare Atoye

As Winston S. Churchill said: “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” So, to the Justices of the Supreme Court, who are the representatives of the Almighty God on the bench and having the constitutional and judicial mandate of the people to dispense justice without fear or favour, we write.

We write to you to be guided at all times by three things: the fear of God that you represent, posterity and the supreme natural law of sowing and reaping. Although, our letter is fired by the fallibility of the bench in delivering the Imo judgement of January 14, 2020 and without accusing your lordships of guilt, but justice remains the need of the common man, everyone and not just the unassailable grounds and demand for redress and restoration of Imo people’s mandate.

Only God is infallible, yet He was gracious enough to give His representative on earth, the Biblical Moses, a second chance to do justice to the people of Israel. Moses had out of anger destroyed the Tablet of Justice, the Ten Commandments because the people of Israel erred. But because Justice and Law are central to human existence, God called Moses to prepare another Tablet of Justice and he did and Justice was entrenched. Justice must never be denied.

Although, the judgement delivered by the Supreme Court in the Imo governorship election petition appeal on January 14, 2020, has no doubt continued to generate national and global outrage and condemnation as a miscarriage of justice, but like the Biblical Moses, the late Jurist and sage, Oputa JSC had in the case of Adegoke Motors Ltd v. Adesanya (1986) 2 NWLR (pt. 109) 250 at 270, and ahead of time, assuaged our concerns that only God is infallible and Justices are capable of erring:

“Justices of this court are human beings capable of erring. It will certainly be short-sighted arrogance not to accept this obvious truth. It is also true that this Court can do inestimable good through its wise decisions. Similarly, the Court can do incalculable harm through its mistakes. When therefore it appears to learned Counsel that any decision of this Court has been given per incuriam, such Counsel should have the boldness and courage to ask that such decision shall be overruled. This Court has the power to overrule itself (and has done so in the past) for it gladly accepts that it is far better to admit an error than to preserve an error.”

The doctrine of justice therefore entails that the Imo matter is not only entertained by the Supreme Court as it has now done, but that the Apex Court should rise above its own mistakes and courageously ensure that the “grave error” of January 14, 2020 is not historically preserved.

Our common man letter to the Supreme Court is therefore premised on one ground and three concerns:

The Ground: That Order 8 Rule 16 of the Supreme Court Rules 2014, is not inconsistent with the application to seek a judicial review of the Imo judgement which was delivered per incuriam with accidental slip and clerical mistakes. That the Supreme Court was misled into awarding judgement that admitted 388 forged results while only 366 forged results were tendered on oath by the Deputy Commissioner of Police (PW 54). This appears to Nigerians that the decision of the Supreme Court was given through lack of care and without judicial diligence.

The Concerns: Firstly, that the Supreme Court can be misled into willfully manufacturing, allocating or dashing out scores or results that were not pleaded on oath and supported with facts.  How did the Supreme Court come-by the missing results sheets in about 22 units? Secondly, except there is a review and reversal, the Supreme Court has now empowered the Police as an alternate INEC in declaring election results. What this means is that a top Police officer with vested interest can always collude with politicians to circumvent real INEC. Thirdly, that the results of an election can be higher than the number of accredited voters in an election.

Lastly, the Supreme Court must not dismiss this expected review with the intention to redress or correct the mistakes in a future case. This will amount to judicial criminality and it will put an avoidable irredeemable tag of guilt around the necks of the Justices and impair the Supreme Court for ever. Therefore, we are challenging our Justices, to like the courageous soldiers of Sparta, rise to defend their honour, integrity and future. Defend the bench and let history speak glowingly about justice.

It is our candid submission that the Supreme Court is left with no other option than to review and reverse this anomaly and rescue Apex Court from infamy, even if it means applying Judicial Doctrine of Necessity (borrowing from the intervention of the National Assembly when Nigeria was in a big fix).

To the Supreme Court, we say apply what you said in: Federal Republic of Nigeria V. MKO Abiola (1995) 7 NWLR : “Justice must be rooted in confidence and confidence is destroyed when right-minded people go away thinking: The judge is biased.”  However, Justice can only be rooted in confidence if a different panel other than the one that erred, is allowed to adjudicate on the review. We therefore align ourselves with every organization and persons demanding for a separate panel to attend to the review.

Ariyo-Dare Atoye is the Convener Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution 

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