Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) on Sunday expressed strong concerns over recent judgements bordering on elections in Plateau State.
Addressing a press conference on Sunday in Abuja, HURIWA’s national coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, said recent events in Plateau have cast a shadow of doubt and suspicion over the integrity of the state’s judiciary.
The organization raised questions about the impartiality of the judiciary and its role in ensuring fair and just elections in Nigeria.
The rights group expressed its deep concern over seeming coordinated effort to issue contradictory judgements, particularly favouring 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,” the group said.
One of the primary issues raised by HURIWA was the issuance of contradictory judgements 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candidate as the outright winner, and ordered that the Certificate of Return issued to the victorious PDP candidate be withdrawn and a fresh Certificate of Return issued to the APC candidate, ” HURIWA said.
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 dictates, stressing that the 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.
“In response to these developments, HURIWA called for an immediate halt to the perceived systematic use of the judiciary to favour the APC in Plateau State.
” The organization outlined several key actions to address these 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,” it said.
The group also stressed the significance of educating the public about the role and functioning of the judiciary to foster a better understanding of its importance in Nigeria’s democracy.
While reaffirming its commitment to the rule of law, democracy, and justice, HURIWA pledged to monitor developments in Plateau State and across the nation to ensure that the rights of the people are upheld.
“HURIWA called 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,” it added.