An international organisation, Justice Action and Human Rights Protection International Network (JAHRPI), has faulted the handling of the constitutional
stalemate on Kogi Governorship poll by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mallam Abubakar Malami (SAN).
It said the AGF ought to have risen above partisan interest in managing the constitutional issues on the poll.
It also advised the AGF to avoid comments which could influence the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), election petitions tribunal and courts at all levels.
JAHPRI made its position known in a statement by its Executive Director, Africa and Middle East, Dr. Jeff. B. Hartung.
The statement reads: “Consequently, it is our firm belief at JAHRPI that the Nigerian Attorney-General of the Federation, being a political appointee of the ruling party should have distanced himself from such an issue involving his party and another rival political party, as his role in making public comments perceived as biased is said to have highly contributed to the confusion in the Kogi election.
“The fact that the AGF publicly issued what seemed to be a directive to the INEC and which eventually became the decision of INEC is enough reason to thrust the entire electoral process into ridicule.
“This was the reported situation in Kogi state which culminated in many legal tussles, thus prompting the setting up of a tribunal to settle the contentious electoral issues as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.
“In fact, whilst the tribunal was still undecided after hearing from all parties in the dispute, the AGF went public with his opinion in a two-page interview as published in the Sunday June 5 edition of The Nation.
“Unfortunately, the interview contained sufficient information to be readily categorised as influencing the Bench.
“In JAHRPI’s analysis, it is obvious that the AGF did not avoid the risk of prejudging the pending litigations which were undergoing careful examination of the facts and law underlying the cases by the Judges at the Election Tribunal.
“In every objective estimation and conclusion by JAHRPI what the Nigerian Chief Law officer did had the capacity and essential ingredients to hamper the chances of some contending parties getting justice in the case.”
“Without a doubt, the Attorney General acted in a manner that portrays him as having prodded these umpires to be partial.
“This assumption unfortunately turned into reality when few days after the Attorney General made his views public, the Electoral Tribunal ruled in line with the views of the Attorney General.
“Specifically, verified information made available to JAHRPI indicate that ever since 22nd of November, 2015 when the Kogi State governorship election was pronounced as inconclusive by the Independent National Election Commission (INEC), Nigeria’s regulating agency on electoral matters, there have been preventable multiple electoral disputes.”
See Full Text of Petition:
Kogi State 2015 troubled Governorship Election and the continued deliberate interference by Attorney General of the Nigerian Federation and Minister of Justice.
As representatives of Justice Action & Human Rights Protection International Network, a.k.a JAHRPI, a global Non Governmental Organisation with the United Nations Consultative Status on issues of justice, equality and liberty with large membership of Nigerian Diaspora, we write to express our deep concern over some very disturbing complaints with irrefutable documentary evidence presented to us by some concerned Nigerians on the above caption.
This petition raises its concern on how the Attorney General of the Nigerian Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami has through his activities promoted an atmosphere of hostility against democracy which can only be to the detriment of the Nigerian Society and its Government.
JAHRPI having worked, engaged in active promotion of advocacy at International forums and functioned as partners to various Governments including Nigeria for about fifteen years in empowering people to be aware of and enforce their rights as enshrined in their respective Constitutions, considers the alleged misconduct of the Attorney General of the Nigerian Federation as an issue of major global concern. Thus, as Civil Society actors, it is our right and our responsibility to question and protest decisions or actions taken by governments or its agents that have no place in a modern democracy.
The circumstances surrounding this petition are so important and extraordinary that at JAHRPI we believe it is important to set them out in some details for ease of comprehension and in order to justify our involvement for upholding the best traditions of global democratic practice in seeking a more just world.
Specifically, verified information made available to JAHRPI indicate that ever since 22nd of November, 2015 when the Kogi State, Nigeria governorship election was pronounced as inconclusive by the Independent National Election Commission (INEC), Nigeria’s regulating agency on electoral matters, there have been preventable multiple electoral disputes which arose as a result of the Nigerian Attorney General’s unhidden penchant for contempt of constitutional principles and interference in the independence of institutions like the INEC and Judiciary that ought to be protected by his office.
Credible documents and authenticated references made available to JAHRPI indicate that the distinction between the office of the Attorney General and the responsibilities of INEC was lost in the heat of the sudden death of one of the contestants in the Kogi election, from the ruling APC party. This was when the Attorney General illegitimately waded into the affairs of INEC by making public remarks on the direction expected of the Electoral Umpire even when its lawyers and consultants were still in a fierce debate on what next step to take, given that the Nigerian Constitution never envisioned that a leading Contestant in a governorship election will die in the middle of the conduct of the polls.
Consequently, It is our firm belief at JAHRPI, that the Nigerian Attorney General being a political appointee of the ruling party should have distanced himself from such an issue involving his party and another rival political party as his role in making public comments perceived as biased is said to have highly contributed to the confusion in the Kogi election. Specifically, his public remarks as documented in the National daily newspapers and other related information portals show a consistent pattern of misconduct demanded of the Chief Legal Officer of a democratic Nation that places his personal preferences above his constitutional duties.
A close examination of the comments attributed to the Nigerian Attorney General reinforces our fears at JAHRPI regarding the deterioration of the Nigerian electoral process and that the Nigerian Attorney General’s established instances of interference are enough to shame any democratic society. In fact, that the Attorney General publicly issued what seemed to be a directive to the INEC and which eventually became the decision of INEC is enough reason to thrust the entire electoral process into ridicule. This was the reported situation in Kogi state which culminated into many legal tussles, thus prompting the setting up of an Election Tribunal to settle the contentious electoral issues as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.
Again, after the widely condemned misguided action of the Nigerian Attorney General with the INEC, at JAHRPI, we would have thought that the Nigerian Attorney General’s focus would have been to salvage the reputation of his office but what happened thereafter is most shocking. Our records at JAHRPI showed that instead of the Attorney General to admit misgivings in his earlier pronouncements on INEC, he unapologetically rubbished the independence of the Nigerian judiciary by openly commenting on such a case which was before the electoral tribunal. In fact, whilst the Tribunal was still undecided on what to do after hearing from all parties in the dispute, the Attorney General went public with his opinion or directives in a two page interview as published in the Nation Newspapers edition of Sunday, June 5th 2016. Unfortunately, the interview contained sufficient information to be readily categorized as influencing the Bench. In JAHRPI’s analysis, it is obvious that the Nigerian Attorney General did not avoid the risk of prejudging the pending litigations which were undergoing careful examination of the facts and law underlying the cases by the Judges at the Election Tribunal. In every objective estimation and conclusion by JAHRPI what the Nigerian Chief Law officer did had the capacity and essential ingredients to hamper the chances of some contending parties getting justice in the case.
Without a doubt, the Attorney General acted in a manner that portrays him as having prodded these umpires to be partial. This assumption unfortunately turned into reality when few days after the Attorney General made his views public, the Electoral Tribunal ruled in line with the views of the Attorney General. If these were acts of coincidence, the conclusion by JAHRPI is that they were most unreasonable as it was a direct act of irresponsibility for the nation’s number one judicial officer to engage in actions of breaking the most fundamental legal principle of prejudicing a case.
The basic premise for this JAHRPI’s conclusion about the Attorney General’s misconduct is based on the simple fact that when disputing parties take their case to court, what they seek is for the judge to listen to the facts and then decide the case on the facts and of law. Realistically, no one wants an umpire that calls for balls and strikes even before the start of a game, but by the verdicts reached by both the INEC and the Election Tribunal which conforms with the directives of the Attorney General, it is obvious that the Umpires were influenced by the Attorney General as his role in in both instances did not permit the Nigerian Constitution to function as it should. Indeed, in all disputes about the Kogi election, it is obvious that Attorney General played an ignoble role of ignoring the independent status of the two institutions that have the constitutional authority to resolve such matters. What the Attorney General ‘half-cleverly’ did by issuing directives to both the INEC and the Judiciary actually diminishes the constitutional independence extended to these agencies.
At JAHRPI, we consider it highly regrettable that a country like Nigeria where the Constitution defines the role of the Attorney General, the duty of the Judiciary and the task of the INEC as completely different and independent have now been usurped by the Attorney General through many flawed remarks and notoriously wrong directives to both INEC and the Election Tribunal on the disputes in Kogi election, thus combining to be the product of Kogi elections.
At JAHRPI, we believe that the citizens of Kogi State have the Constitutional mandate to elect their Government into power as the ultimate stakeholders and must be allowed to define, articulate and work towards their idea of who governs them. However, given the controversial disputes that arose from the Kogi inclusive elections and the many interferences of the Attorney General, it is unfortunate that the subsequent decisions of the INEC and the Judiciary were made to concur with the views or directives of the Attorney General, a disturbing outcome which does the Nigerian Government no credit. Candidly put, to allow the Attorney General to misuse his power to suppress the rights of these institutions is unacceptable to any efficient democracy.
The Attorney General’s misconduct in turning these agencies to rubber stamp agencies and especially through near brutal effort to suppress justice can damage the image of the Judiciary as an independent arm of the government like the Executive and legislature. This no doubt would have planted the belief in the minds of the Kogi electorate that the Attorney General has prevented the Election Tribunal from fulfilling their constitutional duties and diminished the fundamental promise of the Nigeria democracy to offer every party to a legal dispute a fair hearing.
Based on the totality of the Attorney General’s bias, at JAHRPI we do not believe that both INEC and Judiciary acted independently without the pressing demands of the Attorney General. The evidence that the interference of the Attorney General was irresistible is evinced from an examination of the outcomes from the decisions of INEC and the Election tribunal. These decisions are clear indications that INEC officials fell short of their declaration to Nigerians to conduct their duties without partiality. On the side of the Election Tribunal, it is obvious that the decision of the Judges has pitched them against their judicial oath to administer justice without respect to persons.
Infact, even though the Nigerian constitution does not suggest that these institutions in any way need the advice or consent of the Attorney General to reach any decision on the Kogi issue, however, the Attorney General’s naked hostility to the independence of these noble institutions was clear as he obviously stretched the law beyond acceptable limits contained in the constitution by using his directives to supplant the law with his personal preferences. Thus, there is no way these institutions could have met their respective constitutional obligations to adhere to the law as written without following the preferences of the Attorney General that was highly prejudicial in making these institutions implement his own personal political preferences instead of allowing them to apply the law.
At JAHRPI , we believe that there is no greater injustice in political elections than not to allow voter’s choice count or justice to reign in issues of dispute.
We therefore plead that in the interest of stable democracy, Justice and protection of the rights of the Kogi State people that you ask the Nigerian Government to:
1. Put an end to its Attorney General’s expressed desire to cripple the ability of the Independent National Election Commission and Judiciary of Nigeria to conduct their legitimate work.
2. Urgently review all matters where its Attorney General has abused due process in the Kogi election and take remedial actions.
3. Put the activities of the Attorney General under the scanner to bring to an end the use of such an important office to flout laws of the Nigerian Federation with impunity.
4. Press for Change in the conduct of its Attorney General to ensure that the office should be consistent and non-political especially in desisting from further exposing the Kogi election process to an unacceptable risk of interference by the ruling party or its agents.
5. The Nigerian Bar Association to Investigate the Attorney General’s violation of the rights of all parties to fair hearing in the Kogi Election and reverse any such illegitimate actions.
6. Initiate an immediate dialogue between the Kogi electorate and relevant authorities to assure them of impartiality going forward and address their concerns on the alleged misdemeanors of the Attorney General.
7. To investigate the actions of its Attorney General which are alleged to be part of a wider plan of some top ranking persons in the Nigerian Presidency to use the name of the well respected Nigerian President Buhari to carry out some nefarious actions of imposing their choice individuals against the interest of the Kogi voting majority for selfish gains.
8. Denounce and reverse all forms of Injustices in the Kogi electoral process which arose as a result of its Attorney General’s insistence on expanding the Nigerian Constitution in the absence of clear guidance
We look forward to your response and prompt actions on these vital issues of global interest that have the potentials of threatening Nigeria’s democracy, peace and human Rights of its Citizens.
Jeff . B. Hartung, Phd.
Executive Director, Africa and Middle East