Organized labour has vowed to create a “hall of shame” for judges who err in the administration of justice due to financial benefits.
The judiciary in the nation is allegedly on trial, and civil society organizations have vowed to defend Nigeria’s overall democratic aspirations and ethos.
Comrade Joe Ajaero, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, said yesterday during a briefing by the Labour Civil Society Front, LCSF, in Abuja that the judiciary was seriously understaffed, which had caused corrupt individuals who had stolen the popular vote in the recently concluded election to chant “go to court” instead.
He thanked the group for standing up to protect democracy and stated: “We identify with all the sentiments voiced here this afternoon because we feel the mission is focused towards saving Nigeria, the judiciary.
“If they failed to answer those questions within a short time, we would create a hall of shame for those judges that come up with such judgments and that will happen soon. There is need for the NBA, for all arms in the judiciary, to the bar and benches, and all to speak out on what is happening in the judiciary. We doubt whether judiciary is still the last hope of the common man.
“Now, the destiny of the country hangs in a balance. It is either they fulfil it or they betray it once again, the aphorism, ‘go to the court’ these days is now shameful. When people tell you go to court, they are telling you something.”
In a statement signed by Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, Comrade Shehu Sani, Ambassador Nkoyo Toyo and Salisu Mohammed on behalf of the Labour Civil Society Front, titled “In the defence of Nigeria’s democracy and in solidarity with the Nigerian workers”, the group said the 2023 general elections had taken place but noted that its ripples and aftermath for the nation’s promising democracy had been worrisome and frightening.
The statement, read by Ambassador Toyo said: “Some of us, who are architects of Nigeria’s current democratic experience, being human rights leaders, political rights advocates, progressives, civil society and labour movement activists that fought the military for the restoration of democratic governance in Nigeria, have watched with utter astonishment how the processes and procedures meant to consolidate our 24 years of democratic wins have been greatly eroded through the 2023 general elections.
“We entered this season of elections with a strong consensus by Nigerians that the new Electoral Act 2022 will improve the level of electoral accountability and that the huge financial investment of about N355 billion in electoral processes (involving the deployment of Bi-Modal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) technology), will make a marked difference to the elections.
”Sadly, the 2023 general elections became an anti-climax, dashing the hopes of Nigerians for credible elections and denying citizens the emergence of qualitative political leadership across Nigeria.
“Clearly, INEC in cahoots with some members of our political class have driven a death nail into the democratic experience of most Nigerians, thus leaving the electorate despondent to resort to self-help in their effort to salvage whatever is left of their vibrant political engagement with the 2023 elections.
”Unfortunately, majority of Nigerians, especially the youths who fought with patriotism to reset their country through the ballot box, are now wondering if elections have not become the tool for legitimizing the corrupt takeover of Nigeria.
“This dark cloud of angst arising from a terribly mismanaged 2023 general elections has jolted the confidence and hope of many Nigerians, thus propelling us as *Citizens of Conscience* to take the bold step of beginning to resist and mitigate the intended and unintended crisis looming over our dear country.
“We recall the hard-earned democratic reputation of many seated here today, who organized in the early 1990s through actions of coalitions of citizens’ groups, labour and human rights organizations for an end to military dictatorship.
“Their voices held sway as they resorted to citizens’ actions, demonstrations, strikes, global solidarity action and other civil resistance measures to compel the regimes of Presidents Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha to concede to the wishes of the citizens.”
Continuing, the group said, “From all indications, the 2023 General Elections has become a rude reminder of how quickly things can degenerate and that the emergence of what was then termed ‘gun powered democracy’, through which incumbent military regimes manipulated political processes to transmute themselves into ‘elected democratic’ governments, has given way to corrupt money powered imposed rulership, using the trajectory of democratic processes and elections to capture and perpetuate themselves in power.
“In what we see as a democratic redemptive mission, We the Vanguards of concerned citizens and democrats; with a front seat in the history of democratic transitions in Nigeria, are committed to ensuring that political leadership is not foisted on the country at the expense of the democratic gains made so far.
“As a first step, we have decided to signify our public displeasure at INEC and those behind the political coup against the well-laid out and established electoral norms and standards contained in the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act 2022.”
“Therefore, we condemn the outright manipulation of the electoral process and abdication of responsibility by INEC as it has not only destroyed trust in the democratic process, but has rewarded wrongdoing, making it possible for persons of stupendous wealth, who lack legitimacy, to become the real beneficiaries of our electoral process.”
Describing Nigeria a decomposing democracy, the group said: “Prior to the 2023 general elections, INEC showed early signs of inconsistency by shifting electoral deadlines, which favoured the ruling party.
“INEC also discouraged new voters from registering through an abrupt decision to halt the Continuous Voters Registration, CVR. And as if that was not enough, INEC deployed technical personnel manning sensitive positions to non-technical roles, thereby interrupting the seamless and effective deployment of technology in the elections.
“As a decoy, INEC initially displayed a high level of preparedness during off season elections in Anambra, Ekiti, and Osun governorship elections. INEC’s use of technology in those elections gave Nigerians reason to believe that technology will apply in the subsequent 2023 general elections, thereby causing Nigerians to be caught off-guard.
“Though not unexpected, INEC and security agencies failed to act when in some areas, such as Lagos, attacks on non-indigenous groups wanting to vote were unleashed by the ruling party.
”Similarly, the use of hate speeches and other criminal behaviours were treated with levity, thereby incentivizing the subsequent use of electoral violence, brigandage and outright impunity during the 2023 elections.
“To give one graphic example, the LP senatorial candidate for Enugu East was brutally attacked, set ablaze and murdered a few days to the February 25 presidential and National Assembly election with little or no consequences.
“On February 25 as well as March 18, 2023, INEC operations were poorly carried out (see reports of various observer groups) as deployment of election materials to polling units witnessed deliberate lapses, while security personnel could not contain the criminal activities of well-armed thugs that took over some strategic polling units in violation of the Electoral Act 2022 and the 2023 election guidelines.
“These weaknesses were further worsened by huge and open enticement of voters with cash and gifts by political party operatives in the full glare of security operatives.
”Additionally, the speed with which INEC and its officials were willing to disregard the provisions of Sections of the electoral act 2022 and their own electoral guidelines to hurriedly announce election results, not minding the fact that the processes were severely undermined, gave grounds for deep concerns.
”For instance, Sec 60(5), and 149 of 2022 Electoral Act and Clause 38 of INEC 2022 Guidelines and Regulations for Conduct of the 2023 general elections were ignored and manual accreditation of voters for both the presidential and governorship elections were endorsed thus opening the floodgate for the destruction of the sanctity and credibility of the 2023 elections.”
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