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Imo Election Tribunal: Eight CSOs from the Southeast demand attention

May 20, 2024 | 2023 Elections | 0 comments

As the people of Imo State eagerly await the judgment of the 2023 Imo State governorship election tribunal, several South East-based Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have called for vigilance among stakeholders and urged the Judiciary to restore its tarnished image.

In a joint statement released in Owerri, the capital of Imo State, the CSOs urged tribunal members to remain steadfast and loyal to the constitution and Electoral Act, emphasizing that their actions or inactions would place the nation’s Judiciary under global scrutiny.

“For the 2023 Imo State gubernatorial elections, all eyes are once again on the Judiciary. What judgment will they deliver? Will it reflect the wishes of the people or the politicians? Will it uphold electoral law, election guidelines, and the constitution as supreme in elections, or will it affirm only the interpretations of tribunal judges?” the CSOs questioned, insisting that the Judiciary use this tribunal judgment to salvage its image from further damage.

The CSOs, highlighting the severe economic hardship faced by Nigerians under President Bola Tinubu’s administration, believe that the tribunal’s judgment could either provide relief or exacerbate the suffering of Imolites and the Southeast in general.

They cautioned against using technicalities to undermine the clear injustices served on Ndi Imo by compromised election officials during the 2023 governorship poll.

“Around the world, election cases are easier to determine because the election laws are clear. But in Nigeria, even when infractions are glaring, some tribunals tend to rely on technicalities and look the other way. Commentators have concluded that the Judiciary now effectively votes for representatives instead of citizens, who have the sole right to determine their representatives.

“Nigeria and Nigerians are bleeding; the only succor they need now is justice, which lies in determining who actually won the election and whether it was free, fair, and credible. Nothing should be added or removed.”

The CSOs lamented the silence over the tribunal’s activities since the hearings began and insisted on the need to hold tribunal judges accountable as they prepare their judgment.

“The time has come to hold judges accountable for every judgment they pronounce. In 2020, a Supreme Court Justice warned that any judgment considered a miscarriage of justice would haunt electoral jurisprudence for a long time. Instead of haunting only electoral jurisprudence, it has been haunting Imo citizens for over four years,” the statement read.

Led by the South East Social Accountability Network and Democracy and Development Coalition, the CSOs warned that electoral malfeasance and compromised judgments could fuel social unrest and add to citizens’ misery. They also cautioned that a betrayal of public confidence and the erosion of the rule of law could lead to anarchy.

“Injustice erodes public trust in the legal system. When people perceive that election courts are not delivering fair outcomes, they may lose confidence in the Judiciary’s ability to uphold the rule of law and protect their rights, thus resorting to anarchy and self-help during elections.

“The rule of law is based on the principle that laws are applied equally and impartially. When courts fail to deliver just outcomes, it undermines this principle, leading to a weakening of the rule of law and potentially paving the way for arbitrary or discriminatory practices.

“Injustice can fuel social unrest and discontent, particularly among marginalized or disenfranchised groups who feel they are not receiving equal treatment. This can manifest in protests, demonstrations, or other forms of civil disobedience.

“When court decisions are perceived as unjust, it can undermine the legitimacy of judicial institutions and the broader legal framework, weakening the authority of the Judiciary and other institutions responsible for administering justice.

“Injustice may lead to an increase in litigation as aggrieved parties seek to challenge unfair rulings or seek redress, resulting in a backlog of cases and further strain on judicial resources.

“A lack of justice can deter investment and economic growth by creating uncertainty and instability, which is not needed at this moment. Businesses may be reluctant to operate in environments where the legal system is perceived as arbitrary or corrupt.

“Injustice perpetuates existing inequalities within society. When certain groups consistently receive favorable treatment from the legal system while others face discrimination or marginalization, it reinforces social divisions and exacerbates disparities in access to justice,” the document stated.

The statement, signed by Comrade Emmanuel Acha of the South East Social Accountability Network (SESAN), Onyenoha Nnenna of the Citizens Centre For Integrated Development and Social Rights, Nnaemeka Onyejiuwa of Democracy and Development Vanguards, and other CSO leaders, warned that people might resort to self-help if the Judiciary fails to dispense justice.

“In extreme cases, the failure of the legal system to deliver justice may lead to vigilantism or mob justice as people take matters into their own hands in the absence of faith in the judicial process.

“Injustice can tarnish a country’s international reputation, particularly if it is perceived as failing to uphold human rights or rule of law standards. This can have diplomatic and economic repercussions, affecting relationships with other countries and international organizations.”

The CSOs emphasized that the outcome of the Imo governorship election tribunal judgment would have “far-reaching consequences, affecting not only the functioning of the legal system but also broader social, economic, and political dynamics within society which is already on its knees.” They pledged to remain vigilant until justice is served.

Other CSOs endorsing the document included Chibundu Uchegbu of the Better Community Life Initiative, Victor Dorawa Koreyo of Abraham’s Children Foundation, Comrade Nelson Nnanna Nwafor of the Foundation For Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Development (FENRAD), Okoye Chuka Peter of the Centre for Human Rights Advocacy and Wholesome Society (CEHRAWS), and Amb. Peggy Chukwuemeka of the Parent Child Intervention Centre (PCIC).

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