The Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, Festus Keyamo (SAN) yesterday warned that any attempt to ‘intimidate’ the Nigerian judiciary as it prepares to begin hearing in the presidential election petition would be an invitation to crisis.
In a long treatise on Twitter, Keyamo drew attention to a group of people he said had formed themselves into “watchdogs” over the judiciary in respect of the pending election petitions, stressing that the move was meant to ridicule the arm of government.
Keyamo, who was also president-elect, Bola Tinubu’s campaign spokesperson during the just concluded 2023 elections, said such a move was one of the ‘cheap tactics,’ adopted by the unnamed persons.
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“The tribunals and courts should decide these cases devoid of any kind of intimidation from any of the parties and their supporters.
“I call on all supporters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and all patriots to remain calm and be respectful towards the judiciary and be ready at all times to respect and defend the judiciary and our constitution no matter which way the wind blows.
“Any attempt to destroy the judiciary as these characters are bent on doing, is an invitation to another Sudan.
“Just as they often issue the empty boast that they are a different movement and the judiciary should not ‘mess’ with them, they will soon realise that the judiciary is also a different kind of institution with which they cannot ‘mess’ with,” he wrote.
Describing the persons as partisan clowns, Keyamo alleged that the members of the group are loyalists and supporters of a known political party, insisting that the only constitutional watchdog over the judiciary and judicial officers is the National Judicial Council (NJC).
“It negates the very foundation of one of the principles of natural justice for a party to a case or its sympathisers and/or supporters to say they are constituting themselves as ‘watchdogs’ over the umpire (the judiciary) which is to decide case(s) in which they have an interest.
“That principle of natural justice is nemo judex in causa sua – no person can be a judge in a case in which they have an interest. It doesn’t matter that they are not sitting as actual judges themselves; it only matters that they have a fixed notion of what the ‘justice’ in those cases should be and are attempting to browbeat the judiciary to navigate those cases using their own narrow compass. They think ‘justice’ is what the mob says it is,” Keyamo said.
Characterising the situation as ‘very sad’, he stated that the move smacked of brazen intimidation and threat to the judiciary, maintaining that even the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), the umbrella body for all lawyers, has not displayed such ‘buffoonery, effrontery, insolence and arrogance towards our judiciary.’
He added: “There are settled principles of law that no e-thuggery or thuggery, e-intimidation or intimidation and e-nuisance or nuisance will change. The most disgusting part of this nonsense is that people who have no scintilla of legal knowledge or experience from legal practice are the ones at the forefront of this so-called comical attempt to be ‘watchdogs’ over the judiciary.
“It’s like a labourer wanting to superintend over the work of a trained and experienced engineer on site. The NBA must not bow to these cheap tactics and must issue a strong warning to its members not to be seen amongst these jesters or else appropriate sanctions should be meted out on them,” the minister said.
He advised all counsel involved in the election petitions to also caution their clients not to tacitly or directly promote or encourage such behaviour that seek to threaten or intimidate Nigeria’s justices.
Keyamo explained that the tribunals and courts should decide the cases devoid of any kind of intimidation from any of the parties and their supporters.