It is more than one month since the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the highest and final court in the land, delivered judgement in the case of APGA leadership and categorically pronounced Chief Edozie Njoku as the National Chairman of the Party.
n the said matter, INEC was a party and privy to every step taken till judgment was handed down on the 24th of March 2023, where the Court unequivocally alluded to APGA’s National Convention at Owerri that produced Chief Njoku as the authentic convention and further affirmed him as the undisputed National Chairman of APGA.
In the unanimous judgment, the Supreme Court held that the former National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Oye who was claiming to be the chairman was ABSOLUTELY not part of the convention and therefore that his claim cannot be sustained. The court went further to recommend, and in fact deleted Oye’s name in all the processes. Apart from being a party in the suit, INEC was officially served the judgment and the enrolled Order by the Supreme Court.
Surprisingly, INEC has decided to remain mute despite series of letters sent to it by Chief Njoku and other several reminders published in the national newspapers.
To the concern and worry of all Nigerians, INEC has refused to issue a statement or make comment on such sensitive matter of national importance or to act in accordance with the express mandate of the Supreme Court. Rather it chose to illegally protect and retain Victor Oye, a wrong person on seat by its own volition, contrary to the pronouncement of the apex court.
The fallout of this brazen misconduct is grave for our democratic advancement and may have dire consequences.
What the Commission has done so far in regard to the matter is sheer display of impunity which contravenes every legal provisions of the law. It is one of the many reasons why people have lost faith in INEC activities because the Commission has largely failed to satisfy the basic expectations of Nigerians over the years.
The recent Adamawa election saga involving a Resident Electoral Commissioner is one of the many incidents that portray INEC in bad light before the public, save for the outcry of Nigerians, the INEC official linked to the infamous act would have gone the way of others.
It is very disturbing that an agency of government with global reputation like INEC which is populated by some of the best educated country men and women don’t place value on the importance of real time exchange of communication over critical and sensitive issues like the one brought by Njoku which the Commission.
It is this manner of nonchalant attitude that often lead to chaos and distortions in our political landscape. One cannot fathom why weeks after the Supreme Court judgment, INEC has not deemed it necessary to show some level of sensitivity towards implementing the order, whereas it was a party in the same matter at the trial and Appeal courts, where it acted swiftly by replacing those removed by the courts.
If INEC does not want to be cloaked with some vestige of compromise or having special interest in another candidate outside the one affirmed by the Supreme Court, it should demonstrate so by obeying the judgment immediately.
It is the height of impunity and sabotage to the peaceful process of governance for an agency of government to lead in disobedience to court judgment.
INEC should not be a willing tool in the hands of politicians who want to kill APGA for their selfish reasons. The Commission should divest itself of partisan interest and discharge its duties according to the laws establishing it and other laws that have binding effect on it.
To retain Chief Victor Oye on its website as National Chairman of APGA when the Supreme Court has held otherwise is a DIRECT affront to the judiciary which is dangerous to the sustenance of our democratic ethos.
Observers of this development are not convinced on what INEC is up to, especially over its refusal to speak on the matter, many weeks after it received the Supreme Court documents. Does it intend to constitute another court higher than the Supreme Court to review the judgment or what?
It is high time our institutions realize that they are maintained and funded by the public funds and therefore they are responsible to Nigerians. INEC cannot continue to treat a judicial pronouncement with levity or neglect as it is currently doing in the case of Njoku. It should realize the grave danger it portends to disobey orders of Court. The result is that anarchy will be on the loose and the center will no longer hold.
I join well-meaning Nigerians to call on INEC to waste no further time in giving due recognition to Chief Njoku as ordered by the Supreme Court. There is a plethora of judgments which the commission has recognized by issuing them with recognizing them and issuing them certificates of return, including the present governor of Imo state and former governor of Rivers state, to mention but a few. The commission has no power to create its own candidates for any political party.
As a regulator, its responsibility ends with recognizing candidates submitted to it by political parties or those recommended by the courts. What INEC is doing with Njoku is both morally and legally wrong, to say the least. It is also unethical and unprofessional. It shows a lacuna in administration as well as a deliberate dereliction of duty fashioned to frustrate Njoku, possibly because he’s got no government backing or unable to play ball.
It is the right of every citizen to be accorded fair treatment irrespective of his social or financial status. The indulgence of INEC at this juncture to withhold comment or action in the implementation of the Supreme Court’s judgment is an act of impunity taken too far.
Njoku has done all that is required of him by law to earn the attention and recognition of INEC by serving the relevant court documents on the Commission; both directly by himself and by making publications in the national newspapers at huge costs.
The Supreme Court had also served the Commission the judgment, yet it looked the other way. That is not proper. An organization of government or even the private sector institutions have the duty to respond to every information received from an external body.
INEC has its administration and legal departments whose responsibility it is to process information and send feedback to the source. It must be emphasized that the delay by INEC to accord recognition to Njoku is targeted at creating disharmony in APGA, orchestrated by external influence. The CJN and the National Assembly are hereby called upon to intervene immediately to avoid any unpleasant consequences. This impunity must stop. Edozie Njoku must not be denied his hard earned legal victory because he is not part of the establishment or not backed by the APGA governor or political godfathers. He deserves his victory.
A public Affairs commentator wrote from Imo State.