Selective Law Implementation Not Good For Judicial System – Agbaje

Fred AgbajeA Nigerian Lawyer, Fred Agbaje, on Monday berated the Federal Government for the “selective implementation” of court judgments, noting that such a trend would impede the development of the judiciary and the rule of law.

Appearing as a guest on Sunrise Daily, Agbaje recalled a situation in June 2013, “when the same Federal High Court gave judgment in respect of Fresh Democratic Party” and nullified the de-registration of the Party.

“For one good year, INEC and Federal Government refused to obey that judgment,” he said, disclosing that a Motion For Stay and Notice of Appeal were received about two months ago.

According to him, the party did not sue for contempt because it knew what it would meet. He said that the party had been denied access to contest in the Anambra, Ekiti and Osun governorship elections, despite the court ruling.

“We didn’t know all along that they had their motives, only for us to get a motion asking that they are going to Court of Appeal, after depriving the beneficiary of that judgment the fruit of their hard-won victory, for one year. That is justice for you in this country”.

However, he lauded the judiciary, stating that “they’ve done well” and had played by the rule but that “only the politicians are refusing to tow the path of sanity”.

He encouraged legal practitioners to keep their heads up high, as “one misjudgment can cause havoc in the entire system and that’s why judges must be commended”.

He also commended Justice Adeniyi Ademola for his judgement on the Adamawa case, as well as the Federal Government of Nigeria for “the quick implementation” of the court ruling in favour of Ngilari, insisting that it was “a radical departure from the hitherto situation where a judgment had been given in black and white, but government agents started looking for loopholes not to obey it.

Referring to this case in Adamawa, Agbaje surmised that; “this selective implementation of judgment is not good for the development of the rule of law”. He also stated that he “might not be agreeable to that judgement”.

He noted that the peculiarity of every case determines that applicability of the principle of law and the interpretation to be given. “You cannot take hook, line and sinker the principle of law established in one case and use it as a statuette of general application for all other cases, without relating it to the facts before you.”

He argued that the former deputy governor, Bala Ngilari, and the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Umaru Fintiri, must never be allowed to benefit from their own wrongs, noting that the former deputy governor was well aware of his actions, when he submitted his resignation letter to the speaker.

He noted that the deputy governor did not “manifest the intention to resign”. “Did he actually intend to resign or was he just fooling the entire people of Adamawa state? He asked.

He further opined that the deputy governor should have refused to be intimidated to resign, but because he was afraid of being impeached along with the governor, he chose to “send them on a wild goose chase”.

Court Nullifies Deregistration Of Political Parties By INEC

A federal high court in Abuja presided by Justice Gabriel Kolawole has nullified the deregistration of political parties by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The court also declared Section 78 (7) (ii) of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended, which said parties must win seats in the state and national assembly election as null and void.

Justice Kolawole made the declaration in his judgment in a suit filed by Fresh Democratic Party (FDP) and its presidential candidate in the 2011 general elections, Reverend Christopher Okotie.

INEC in December 2012 deregistered 31 political parties, basing its action on the power conferred on it by the 1999 constitution (as amended) and the electoral act 2010 (as amended).

The plaintiffs, in the suit filed by their counsel Fred Agbaje, had asked for a declaration that Section 78 (7) (ii) of the Electoral Act, 2010 is unconstitutional, invalid, null and void to the extent that if offends the provisions of section 40 and sections 221-229 of the 1999 constitution.

The plaintiffs also asked the court to make a declaration that INEC cannot deregister the party except in accordance with the provisions of the 1999 constitution.

In his judgment, Justice Kolawole said, “the concept of deregistration of political parties is strange to the 1999 constitution.”

“The criteria by which the National Assembly delimited deregistration to failure to win seats in states and national assembly elections appears like nothing but legislative arbitrariness, since INEC has powers to conduct other elections.”

He further said “INEC would not have lost anything by issuing the 1st plaintiff (FDP) with a query to enhance the integrity of its decision.”

He added that “the statutory powers conferred on the INEC can be described as ministerial but when such power concerns deregistration of a political party it becomes a quasi-judicial power because after registration a political party becomes a legal entity and acquires a legal right; to take away such legal rights cannot be taken without according the political party a hearing.”

But Justice Kolawole did not grant the plaintiffs’ prayer that the court should order the defendants to pay them the sum of N10million as compensatory damages.

Justice Kolawole’s ruling is negating an earlier ruling by Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court Lagos, which in March 2013, held that INEC has the power to deregister political parties.