I am not a learned man like those in the legal business will prefer to refer to themselves as but I don’t need to be one to say what I am about to say. It is common place knowledge that justice delayed is justice denied. Every body knows that including street urchins and the very un-educated. One man who however seem not too aware of this axiom or who has simply decided to ignore it for whatever reason is The President of Nigeria’s Court of Appeal.
How else do we begin to explain the prolonged failure of the President of The Court of Appeal to constitute panels to hear the various hanging appeals from various states arising from the ruling of various electoral tribunals? At the last check, the tribunal ruling in Edo state which declared Adams Oshiomole of the AC the rightful winner of the 2007 gubernatorial election is seven months old. The former president of the Nigeria Labour Congress NLC is yet to assume his mandate because the Governor Prof Osunbor of the PDP filed an appeal. For seven months, no panel has been appointed to hear this appeal. Since then, other states have joined. Appeals are waiting to be heard in Abia State in which Governor T.O Orji is challenging his removal as governor by the tribunal, Rauuf Aregbesola is questioning the ruling of the Osun state tribunal which was accused of bias and unholy association with the ruling governor who was favoured –as predicted-by their ruling.
Olusegun Mimiko of the Labour party is also waiting for the Court of Appeal to claim the mandate of the people of Ondo (as ruled by the tribunal) due to an appeal by Governor Agagu of the PDP. Peter Okocha of the AC is waiting in Delta. Fayemi of the AC following the ruling of the Ekiti state tribunal is of course heading for the Court of Appeal to join the waiting game. Hope I have not left any out? Why do we have to wait this long to get justice? The lone voice of opposition in the country AC has continued to harangue the media with appeals to the President of the court of Appeal for the needed panels to be constituted. Recently, the new executive of the Nigeria Bar Association NBA joined in the appeal with their president stating that the Bar was going to actually meet with the Court of Appeal President in other to find out what exactly is delaying the process. We wait to see if their efforts will yield any result. Until then, it is important to state that the actions of the Court of Appeal President in failing to do his job or coming out to tell Nigerians why is cant do his job, is tainting what ever achievements the Judiciary has made in the recent past. In fact, it is beginning to look as though the learned Justice is working with the ruling PDP to subvert justice or to simply delay it until such a time it would become as good as denied.
The most logical explanation is that he is helping the various governors whose seats are threatened gain time. This time allows them access to the state treasury for a longer time so that when (if) they are eventually thrown out, they would have stolen enough for their generations unborn. It can also be viewed in the sense that the delay is to allow the threatened governors time to do their “underground” job well-grease the necessary palms and liquidate all stumbling blocks- so that when the panels are finally constituted they would either have a smooth sail to victory or at the worst get the reprieve of a re-run which they are already set to win. For example, the Edo State Governor has been openly campaigning, certain he was getting a re-run ruling. The suspicions are apt given that some other states had had Appeal panels constituted for them. Why did it not take so long? There was appeal hearing in Sokoto, Kebbi, Kogi, Cross River, Bayelsa, Enugu and even the FCT senatorial seat which was done so rapidly, why is it taking long in these other States? It is worthy of note that in all cases above, the hearings where expedited, re-runs were ordered in line with the tribunal ruling and in all cases, the ruling PDP won again. In these other cases that are being delayed, we have cases that can change the leaderships of the states (not just re-runs), could that be the reason for the delay? Is there some thing fishy going on? Is our Court of Appeal already compromised? These questions will continue to ring out until the man whose duty it is to appoint the various panels does his job. While he can sit back and enjoy the spoils of his office without any pressure from any quarter (because the ruling party is the ones benefiting) the Learned Justice should be aware that posterity will never forgive him if by his action (or inaction) justice is subverted or seen to have been subverted. The Judiciary has remained the hope of the common Man especially in our democracy which is filled with all sorts of sharp practices. Failure of the Court of Appeal to keep that hope of the common man alive is tantamount to a failure of the Judiciary as an Institution and will invariably lead to a loss of faith in her and in democracy as a whole. I am neither a member of the AC nor of any other political party. I write these as a Nigerian who witnessed the shamble called 2007 general elections and who is pained by the fact that in the few states where Justice is close to being given, it is being threatened once more. Justice delayed is justice denied. Sylva Nze Ifedigbo [email protected] www.nzesylva.wordpress.com
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters