Ensure justice prevails, CSOs urge Imo Election Tribunal

Voters during election in Nigeria
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By Victor Nwachukwu

Eight South-East based Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have urged the judiciary to use the upcoming judgement of the 2023 Imo Governorship Election Petition Tribunal to deliver justice to the people who felt shortchanged in the election.

The call is contained in a communique signed by the CSOs, made available to newsmen after their meeting in Owerri on Friday, as the tribunal prepares to deliver judgement.

The CSOs said the judiciary should use the upcoming judgement to redeem its image and to remain steadfast and loyal to the constitution.

“We hope that the actions or inactions of some people will not put the nation’s judiciary under global scrutiny,” the CSOs said in the communique.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Gov. Hope Uzodinma was returned by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), a declaration that was vigorously disputed by the opposition political parties in the state.

The candidates in the forefront of the election petitions are Senators Athan Achonu and Samuel Anyanwu of the Labour Party and Peoples Democratic Party respectively.

“For the 2023 Imo State governorship elections, all eyes are once again on the Judiciary. What judgment will they deliver? Will it be a judgment that will reflect the wishes of the people or the wishes of the politicians?

“Will it be a judgment that will reinstate electoral law, election guideline and the constitution as supreme in elections or the affirmation of only the interpretations of tribunal judges?,” they asked.

The CSOs decried the excruciating economic hardship faced by Nigerians, noting that the outcome of the Imo tribunal judgment would either provide succour or worsen the agony of Imo people and the southeast in general.

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They urged the judiciary not to adopt the use of technicalities to undermine the alleged injustice served on “Ndi Imo” during the 2023 governorship poll.

“All over the world, election cases are easier to determine because the election laws are very clear but in Nigeria, even when infractions are very glaring, some tribunals tend to rely on technicalities and look the other way.

“In fact, commentators have concluded that it is judiciary that now votes in representatives into political offices in place of the citizens who own the sole right of determining who represents them.

“Nigeria and Nigerians are bleeding to the point of death and the only succour they need now is justice whose colors lie in the determination of who actually won the election.

“The judiciary should also determine whether it was free, fair and credible; nothing should be added or removed,” they said.

They, however, insisted that Nigerians must hold the tribunal judges accountable as they prepare their judgement.

“Time has come to hold judges accountable for every judgment they pronounce.

“This is because in 2020, a Justice of the Supreme court warned the apex court that any judgment they delivered, which is considered a miscarriage of justice, will hunt electoral jurisprudence for a long time.

“Instead of hunting only electoral jurisprudence, it has also been hunting Imo citizens since over four years”.

Led by the South-East Social Accountability Network and Democracy & Development Coalition, the CSOs warned that electoral malfeasance and compromised judgement can fuel social unrest and add to the misery faced by citizens.

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They also said that a betrayal of public confidence and erosion of the rule of law can result to unimaginable consequences.

“When people perceive that election courts are not delivering fair outcomes, they may lose remaining confidence in the judiciary’s ability to uphold the rule of law and protect their rights thus resorting to anarchy and self-help during elections.

“The rule of law is based on the principle that laws are applied equally and impartially to all individuals.

“When courts fail to deliver just outcomes, it undermines this principle, leading to a weakening of the rule of law and potentially paving the way for deepening of arbitrary or discriminatory practices.

“Injustice can fuel social unrest and discontent, particularly among marginalised or disenfranchised groups who feel that they are not receiving equal treatment under the law; this can manifest in protests, demonstrations or other forms of civil disobedience.

“When court decisions are perceived as unjust, it can undermine the legitimacy of judicial institutions and the broader legal framework; this, in turn, can weaken the authority of the judiciary and other institutions responsible for administering justice.

“Injustice may lead to an increase in litigation as aggrieved parties seek to challenge unfair rulings or seek redress through the legal system. This can result in a backlog of cases and further strain on judicial resources.”

The CSOs added that lack of justice can deter investment and economic growth by creating uncertainty and instability.

“Businesses may be reluctant to operate in environments where the legal system is perceived as arbitrary or corrupt,“ the communique added.

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The document was signed by Mr Emmanuel Acha, of The South-East Social Accountability Network (SESAN ); Mrs Onyenoha Nnenna of Citizens Centre For Integrated Development and Social Rights as well as Nnaemeka Onyejiuwa of the Democracy and Development Vanguards.

Others who signed were Chibundu Uchegbu of Better Community Life Initiative; Victor Koreyo of Abraham’s Children Foundation, Ebonyi and Mr Nelson Nwafor of the Foundation For Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Development (FENRAD), Aba in Abia.

Also Mr Okoye Peter of the Centre for Human Rights Advocacy and Wholesome Society (CEHRAWS), Enugu as well as Amb. Peggy Chukwuemeka of the Parent Child Intervention Centre (PCIC), Enugu, signed the communique. (NAN)(www.nannews.ng)

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Edited by Emmanuel Afonne

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