The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) on Saturday strongly denounced the recent ruling by the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Enugu State describing it as shocking and dubious.
The group stated this at a press conference in Abuja addressed by Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, the group’s National Coordinator, saying the ruling “has left the nation in disbelief.”
Expressing its outrage at the tribunal’s verdict, the group observed that the ruling defies logic and raises serious questions about the integrity of Nigeria’s electoral system.
The ruling is “a gross miscarriage of justice that undermines the principles of fairness and transparency in elections,” the group said.
It asserted that “the ruling not only condones potential acts of alleged certificate forgery but also sends a distressing message that political aspirants can manipulate their qualifications with impunity precisely because the Tribunal deliberately failed to address that aspect of the petition but rather played around flowery language to deodorise the panel’s decision to unleash injustice.
“The three-man tribunal, in a unanimous judgment delivered by its chairman, Justice Kudirat Akano, dismissed the petitions of the Labour Party and its candidate, Chijioke Edeoga, on the basis that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) certificate is not a qualification to contest a governorship election.
“This reasoning demonstrates a troubling lack of understanding of the law and its application.
“One of the most troubling aspects of the ruling is the acknowledgment by the tribunal that Governor Mbah may or may not have presented a likely forged NYSC certificate because the Tribunal left the question in an unmitigated logical ambiguity when in fact it was expected to definitively make a pronouncement on the validity or invalidity of that allegation of certificate forgery which in any event the Governor has another subsisting matter in another court of coordinate jurisdiction for interpretation.
“The Tribunal which opted to deal with that matter, would have applied the law but rather applied sophistry and ended up not resolving that logical question.
“Astonishingly, the tribunal conceded that the certificate was presented but argued that because Mbah did not ‘intend’ to use it to aid his qualification, he cannot be disqualified.
“This dubious reasoning essentially tolerates potential forgery and undermines the very essence of electoral transparency and honesty,” Onwubiko added.
Decrying this shocking concession, HURIWA argued that it sets a dangerous precedent, eroding the foundations of democracy and accountability, just as the group emphasised that the implications of this miscarriage of justice extend far beyond Enugu State, adding that it undermines the credibility of Nigeria’s electoral process and damages the trust of the Nigerian people in government institutions.
More so, HURIWA expressed not only outrage but also deep concern regarding “the rightness of assigning such a matter to a penal presided over by the honourable, Justice Kudirat Morayo Akano.”
The group said, “It has come to light that Justice Akano is not without her own cloud of controversy, having faced allegations of deliberately subverting the course of justice in a case she presided over as an Osun State High Court judge.
“The fact that such allegations exist should raise serious questions about her appointment as the chairman of any panel, let alone one that holds such significant sway over the democratic process.
“However, the larger implication of this ruling cannot be ignored. It effectively invalidates the practice of presenting a degree certificate presupposing possession of an NYSC Certificate or NYSC discharge.
“If someone presents a certificate that is later deemed forged by the issuing authority, it raises fundamental questions about the tribunal’s negligence in addressing this issue.
“Why did the tribunal not thoroughly investigate the authenticity of the certificate since it was submitted, especially if it claims that NYSC certification is not a requirement?
“If it truly holds no importance, why did the candidate submit it in the first place? These are glaring inconsistencies that the tribunal failed to address, leaving room for scepticism and doubt about the impartiality of the judgment,” the group further observed.
HURIWA called on the appellate courts to “correct this grave injustice and uphold the principles of fairness, transparency, and integrity in Nigeria’s elections, with the belief that the citizens of Enugu State and Nigeria as a whole deserve nothing less than a fair, just, and credible electoral process that reflects the true will of the people.”
There has been outrage over the tribunal ruling which nullified the essence of the NYSC that an individual does not need the certificate to contest the election.
The petitioner had argued before the tribunal that for the fact that the NYSC authority which is vested with the power to issue discharge certificates to all Corps members had denounced the copy Governor Mbah presented, the court would have nullified the March Election.
The petitioner further said if any issuing authority rejects a copy of a certificate, it then amounts to fraud and that the second respondent in the electoral matter would have had his election nullified and allowed to face the charge bordering on fraud.
Alarmed, HURIWA argued that the implications of the judgment on the NYSC especially if the judgment is upheld by the Appeal Court or Supreme Court, will “effectively undermine the significance of the NYSC certificate, suggesting that anyone can simply present any certificate without consequences since in the first place, it bears no qualifying relevance as interpreted or argued by this panel of judges in the Enugu gubernatorial election petition tribunal. It puts into question the very relevance of the NYSC institution in Nigeria”.
The group called for “urgent reforms in Nigeria’s electoral and judicial systems, insisting that accountability and the rule of law must prevail over political expediency and that the tribunal’s verdict should serve as a rallying cry for a better, fairer, and more just Nigeria.”