Senior lawyers sing discordant tunes over PDP’s litigation threat

Former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), has advised the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, not to challenge the outcome of the election.
Agbakoba said while there were alleged massive irregularities, which peeved the PDP, the party should shun the courts in the interest of peace and unity of the country.

“I understand the PDP is aggrieved about the outcome of the election and alleged massive irregularities. But I urge former Vice President Atiku Abubakar not to approach the election petition tribunal. He might have moved backwards by his loss but he should not lose sight of the legacy and greatness that lies in front of him.

“Atiku is in a strong position to take up the mantle of a statesman. He can build a new Nigerian movement from the motley of small parties, third force actors, change actors and millions who are desperate for a strong, united Nigeria. There is also a lot of work to be done in both political and electoral reforms. I request Atiku to step into the shoes,” he said, adding that it is actually tempting to take the option of the courts following “massive irregularities” that characterised the polls.

But for human rights lawyer, Malachy Ugwummadu, considering that a dissatisfied candidate, including a presidential candidate, has only 21 days after the declaration of results of an election under Section 134(1) of the Electoral Act 2010 and considering also that the major contender to the position of president on the platform of PDP, Atiku, has officially rejected the outcome of the election, it stands to reason that this coming week will define clearly the nature and form of the legal battle that is to come.

His words: “Unfortunate as it might be, it is a better approach in the circumstance of present national mood rather than resort to self help. The sense that it would help douse the heightened tension makes it the more desirable and civilised route to go.”

Activist lawyer and the chairman, Justice Sector Reform Commission of the African Bar Association (ABA), Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, said those who lost should embrace due process of law in all actions connected with the elections.

According to him, once the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has declared a winner, the losers should seek judicial redress.

“An appeal must also be made to all concerned to embrace due process of law in all actions connected with the elections. INEC, having declared winners for the elections, no matter the merits or otherwise, the options available should be exhausted through due process of law. We have no choice than that noble option, in the interest of our dear nation.”

Adegboruwa charged the electoral umpire to rise to the occasion and leverage on the past exercise to improve on the coming ones.

“In this regard, INEC must demonstrate apparent transparency and impartiality in the entire electoral process, to command and sustain the confidence of voters and to ensure that their votes count, in the determination of the winner or loser, eventually. That is when INEC can truly earn its name ‘independent’. There must be no room for any person, candidate or political party to influence the outcome of any election,” he cautioned.

Associate professor of law, Lagos State University, Ojo, Dr. Gbadebo Olagunju, said the option left for the losers is to approach the election tribunals. He explained that he expects the election petition tribunals to be busy with in the coming weeks, adding that it would certainly create job for lawyers.

“The election petition tribunal would be filled with petitions by losers. So, there will be job for lawyers in the coming weeks,” he quipped.

Director,of Access to Justice (A2J), Joseph Otteh, said there were considerable incidents of electoral law violations, and disenfranchising violence during the elections, adding that aggrieved parties should approach the courts for redress.

He however expressed disappointment over the crisis rocking the judiciary, adding that such crisis makes the judiciary unattractive for adjudication now.

“I expect candidates and parties to engage the judicial process. Unfortunately, the judiciary is not such an attractive place right now,” he declared.

Abuja-based lawyer, Abubakar Sani, said only time would tell if the judiciary would be able to deliver justice under the present circumstances at the leadership of the apex court.

He, however, expressed optimism that since they swore to do justice without fear or favour, affection or ill will, according to the constitution and the law, the judiciary would deliver.

Another lawyer, Muhammad Umar, asserted that although the suspension of Walter Onnoghen as Chief justice of Nigeria (CJN) did not follow due process, whether the PDP will get justice when it approaches the court is an invitation to cast aspersions on the credibility of the judges.

“It’s not a question of law, but mere political permutations and conspiracy theories,” he stated.

Former vice president of NBA, Monday Ubani, described going to court after losing election as normal.

“The current president went to court three times after he lost elections. He contested three times and lost and sought redress in court.

So it is a legitimate thing to do when you contest election and feel that there are irregularities,” he stated, expressing hope that the courts would do justice to the matter.

“I still have faith at the judiciary and will never ask anybody to lose faith in our judicial system because once we do that; our state will be filled with anarchy; people would begin to take laws into their hands. But I know that the Nigerian judiciary would rise to the occasion,” he enthused.

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