A Stolen Victory, A Shameful Verdict

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Abdulraman Abdulrazaq

Press Statement on the verdict  by the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal for Kwara State  in the case between Abdulraman Abdulrazaq (PDP) and Dr Bukola Saraki (APC) over the Kwara Central Senatorial District election of 28th March 2015

O N 13TH OCTOBER 2015, the National Assembly (NASS) Election Petition Tribunal for Kwara State issued its verdict on the Petition I slammed against the dubious declaration of DR BUKOLA SARAKI by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the validly elected candidate in the Kwara Central Senatorial District election held on 28th March 2015.

As you can imagine, we received the judgment with disbelief and dismay. But, then, not a trifle surprised, as would become apparent shortly.

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A FEW WORDS OF THANKS

Let me, though, firstly thank my Counsel from Ambali Abdulkadir & Co, notably Francis Obumse, John Osighala, Azeez Olagoke and AA Mujahid, and their support teams for their hugely admirable work. The verdict says more about the integrity and professionalism of the Tribunal than about those of my Counsel.

My gratitude similarly goes out to those in the media who not only gave vent to our concerns in the days since the election campaign, but also ensured that critical issues during the Tribunal hearings were reported without fear or favour.

I also want to thank most warmly all our PDP election workers, supporters and well-wishers across Kwara Central — and indeed Kwara State — for their epic sacrifices and resolute support. Without this, my own vision and efforts to foster democracy and reformist socio-economic agenda wouldn’t be worth the candle.

WHAT & WHO THE STRUGGLE IS REALLY ABOUT

This struggle, then, is really about you, not me — about our shared quest for a prosperous, just, peaceful, inclusive and socially cohesive democracy in Kwara Central and Kwara State as a whole. It’s not about the elephantine ego, greed and maniacal ambitions of a misguided individual who sees himself as the divinely ordained satrap of our Kwara community. Always remember that!

When, therefore, I went before the Tribunal some seven months ago to contest INEC’s outrageously dubious return on the Kwara Central Senatorial election, it was to assert and affirm our inalienable right to be free citizens, not someone’s subjects — to ensure your democratically expressed will prevails.

Regrettably, the Tribunal Chairman, Justice Joshua J Majebi of Kogi State, and Justices EG Omukoro and UZ Mohammed of Bayelsa and Yobe States respectively, took a different view. They ruled my Petition as having been filed outside the legal time limit, and thus technically affirmed Dr Saraki as elected.

I understand that. But I also have nothing but scorn for what amounts to a stolen victory and a shameful verdict.

THE BASIS OF MY PETITION

My Petition was mainly anchored on six grounds, involving widespread non-compliance with various provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), and INEC’s election regulations and procedures. It was also my contention that I rather than Dr Saraki scored majority of the lawful votes cast at the election.

Hence, I urged the Tribunal to annul Dr Saraki’s alleged victory, and declare me as the genuine winner instead. Or quash the said poll and order a fresh one.

At trial, my Counsel deployed undeniable evidence of breaches of the election law, rules and procedures, notably huge over-voting, abuse and misuse of the electronic card reader for voter accreditation which helped Dr Saraki, and other acts that proved his purported victory was predetermined and pre-written.

THE CRIMINAL FORGERIES

Dr Saraki, on his part, elected not call any evidence or appear in person in his defence. Alhaji Ladi Hassan, the lone witness called to testify in his favour by the APC, availed material evidence that led Justice Majebi to raise suo moto at the close of evidence a further issue for determination — whether my Petition should be struck out for being allegedly filed outside of the legal time frame.

In law, suo moto (Latin for on its own motion) or its analogous sua sponte (of his, her, its or their own accord) means an act of authority taken without formal prompting from another party. The term in legal parlance is thus mostly applied to actions by a judge taken without prior request or motion from the parties.

Mercifully, we were able to show, thanks to INEC’s other election result sheets, that Alhaji Hassan’s exhibits were indeed criminal forgeries, which at once rendered the election’s return — the very material basis and fact upon which the Tribunal was invited to adjudicate — as plainly fraudulent and thus a nullity.

The “Summary of Results From Local Government Areas Collation at Senatorial District Level” or INEC Form EC 8D (I) that the Tribunal admitted as Exhibit D1 showed it was made on 28th March 2015. So, too, was the resulting “Declaration of Result of Election” or Form EC 8E (I) that the Tribunal admitted as Exhibit D2 and solely relied upon to dismiss my Petition.

Exhibit D1 — the alleged entire collated results — was signed by Dr Saraki’s party agent Alhaji Hassan and INEC Collation/ Returning Officer Dr (Mrs) Mulkah A Ahmed alone behind the backs of all other party agents. While the “Declaration of Result” (Exhibit D2) was signed by Dr (Mrs) Ahmed.

But it turned out a number of results and the “Summary of Results From Polling Units Collation At Registration Area Level” or Form EC 8B (I), which were admitted as parts of Exhibit P1, were completed on 29th March 2015 — ie, one day after the final result that also included the as yet non-existent figures from Form EC 8B (I) were declared on 28th March. All these showed INEC trying to do the impossible — riding two horses in opposite directions simultaneously!

Now, even a rookie ‘bail me lawyer’ can figure out that Exhibits D1 & D2 were phony. Alas, their Lordships, Justices Majebi, Omukoro and Mohammed saw things differently. To justify their laughable decision to dismiss my Petition, they held that only the “Declaration of Result” (Exhibit D2) is relevant evidence, whose authenticity they also readily accepted — by assumption!

MAKING AN ASS OF THE LAW: CHUTZPAH AND IMPUNITY

Nor did it strike them as ludicrous that the process which produced Exhibit D2 had criminally violated the very section 69 of the Electoral Act, 2010 that they smugly invoked as their statutory licence. Or even if it did, they must have felt they could still treat the law with abject contempt and — yes — get away with it. Yet these were honourable men sitting pretty in our high temple of justice.

Remarkably, their Lordships’ folly and nerve were matched by the chutzpah and impunity that informed the obtuse electoral heist itself. Who really inspired or authorised it, and how it was pulled off would perhaps never be known.

What’s evident, though, is that Dr (Mrs) Ahmed was at the wheel of the get-away car, with only Alhaji Hassan by her side, and Dr Saraki watching or monitoring events from the sidelines — which makes him as much a culprit in the eyes of the law, as section 124(6) of the Electoral Act, 2010 makes plain.

A PREMEDITATED JUDICIAL AMBUSH

Matters were not helped by the way the Tribunal handled the issue at trial. My Counsel’s effort to verify Hassan’s purported signature on one of his dodgy exhibits was blocked by Justice Majebi for reasons that remain opaque. Then there was the premeditated judicial ambush over my Petition’s competence.

Precisely why Justice Majebi raised the issue suo moto only at the close of evidence, but then refused our request for further scrutiny and evidence by all the parties even when this was backed by case law strongly points to devious and corrupt conduct. It also raises fundamental question of fair hearing.

A GRAND MONUMENT TO CRASS IRRESPONSIBILITY

It’s equally bizarre and disturbing that three judges of superior court of record can proceed to judgment by ignoring the evidence of their own eyes. It’s all the more so that they will set their faces firmly against blatant criminality, and then proceed to legitimise it. There can be no better Forger’s Charter.

The verdict that Justices Majebi, Omukoro & Mohammed passed in this suit belongs only to the dark art of voodoo jurisprudence, the result of rogue judicial decision-making, and a grand monument to reckless and crass irresponsibility.

It’s a powerful symbol of what’s gravely wrong with some elements and aspects of the Nigerian justice system. In polite societies, if any judge ever has to deliver such judgment, he’d read it with one of his hands covering his nose.

The verdict gives cold comfort to decent folks who play by the rules, and resist gaming the system. At the same time, it tarnishes and undermines not only the integrity and morale of the many upright and brave judges who strive to deliver better justice to our people, but also of the justice system itself.

I say all this more in sorrow than in anger.

But above all because I want a Nigerian judiciary that is among the best the world over, not a parody of them. To ensure this, the National Judicial Council must be pro-active in curbing rogue justice. It ought not to wait for complaint before it acts.

However, I have requested Chief Justice Mahmud Mohammed to launch an NJC investigation into allegations of corrupt, wanton and reckless misconduct as well as abuse or misuse of judicial power, incompetence or dereliction of duty and contempt for the law by Justices Majebi, Omukoro and Mohammed, among other charges.

I also proposed to Chief Justice Mohammed that it’s absolutely imperative to establish a vigorous and continuous review system, made up of retired senior jurists and other legal luminaries at home and abroad, to review anonymously on both sides all judgments of courts and tribunals and advice on appropriate measures. Such a system and process would help improve the quality, integrity and efficiency of justice delivery by keeping judicial officers permanently on their toes.

OUR LAST LINE OF DEFENCE

Crime, injustice and abuse or misuse of power such as shown above threaten us all. When these are winked at in the temple of justice, no system or country can reasonably expect to survive and prosper. For the judiciary is our last line of defence between discord and disorder, diktat and freedom, civilisation and decay, and between barbarism and chaos.

Mr Solomon Arase, the Inspector-General of Police, has thus far maintained curious, even lamentable, silence over the crimes relating to the Kwara Central Senatorial election reported to his office months ago. It’s within his power, nay, duty to go wherever the evidence leads him; or risk leaving behind him a legacy of no more significance than that of a person rising from a cushion chair.

Meantime, the Judgment by Justices Majebi, Omukoro & Mohammed stands as a bold signpost to those who might be unfortunate enough to appear before them. Its grotesque travesty of justice will eternally haunt its authors, however.

Mahatma Gandhi was right. “There is a higher court than the courts of justice, and that is the Court of Conscience.” But it’s to Plato that I leave the last words: “He who commits injustice is ever more wretched than he who suffers it.”

Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq

31st December 2015

PDP Senate Candidate,

Kwara Central

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