As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark International Workers’ Day today, organised labour and the civil society coalition, under the aegis of Citizens’ Democratic Movement, have urged the country’s judiciary, especially judges of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, to help safeguard democracy by doing justice to all the election petitions brought before them.
The movement, comprising several civil society and youth organisations, insisted that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had seriously damaged the country’s democracy with its poor showing at the elections. They also vowed to name and shame corrupt leaders.
Co-conveners of the movement included Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, Comrade Shehu Sanni, Ambassador Nkoyo Toyo, Professor Udenta Udenta, Salisu Mohammed, and Olawale Okunniyi.
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Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) was represented by its president, Joseph Ajaero, and Trade Union Congress (TUC) had its General Secretary, Nuhu Toro, in attendance.
Nigerian workers joined their counterparts worldwide to commemorate the historic struggles and gains made by workers and the labour movement.
Prominent Nigerian leaders participated in the May Day celebration by sending felicitations to the country’s workers for their courage, commitment, and patriotism.
Ajaero, who joined a meeting of the Citizens’ Democratic Movement midway, appealed to the judiciary to use the opportunity of adjudicating in the petitions from the 2023 general election to redeem its fast waning image.
He said the labour movement and its allies were prepared this time to monitor the operations of the judiciary.
The NLC president said labour and its allies would not hesitate to name and shame judges known to have compromised objectivity in an effort to undermine the wishes and interest of Nigerians.
Ajaero said the judiciary had through its many flops attracted many questions from Nigerians, adding, “If they fail to answer those questions within a short time, we would create a hall of shame for those judges that come up with judgements, for those judges that create such problems, that would happen soon.”
He further said there was need for the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and all arms of the judiciary to speak out on happenings in the judiciary and frankly ponder whether the judiciary was still the last hope of the common man.
Urging members of the judiciary to remember that the destiny of the country was in their hands, Ajaero said, “It is either they fulfil it or they betray it once again. When they tell you go to the court, they’re telling you that, that is the end of the matter. Somebody will steal yam and say go to the court. On what basis are those statements being used?
“That’s the level of ridicule that the judiciary has been brought and as Nigerians, we all need to come out to rescue the judiciary, else there’ll be no need to continue go to court.”
Ajaero noted that NLC identified with the movement not necessarily on political basis, but in order to rescue the country.
In a statement titled, “The Threatening Decomposition of Democracy in Nigeria and the Urgent Need for Citizens’ Intervention,” Citizens’ Democratic Movement said despite the trust Nigerians had that INEC would deliver a free and fair general election, the commission failed woefully and, instead, allowed the process to be hijacked by corrupt and discredited politicians.
Addressing journalists at the end of their meeting at Labour House, in Abuja, yesterday, spokesperson of the group, Toyo, accused INEC of attempting to destroy democracy by failing to uphold the provisions of the Electoral Act and even their own set rules.
Toyo stated, “This 2023 general election 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 has 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 legitimising the corrupt takeover of Nigeria.”
Toyo further said the group’s collaboration with NLC, TUC, human rights organisations, citizens and youth movements and allies in like-minded political organisations was an alert mechanism for the conscience of Nigerians and defenders of Nigeria’s democracy.
She said they would engage key national institutions, especially INEC, the judiciary, legislature, and the security services squarely to resist the vicious and corruptive pressure from state operators and the political class, who insisted on a total takeover and control of relevant state organs.
Toyo said, “As vanguards of Nigeria’s democratic heritage, we are calling for a return to rules-based democracy in which Nigerians can remain hopeful that their sacrifices of participating in elections will ultimately count.
“Therefore, as affected individuals and parties resort to the court as the main conflict resolving mechanism, we hope that the judiciary, as the final arbiter, will ensure that the malfeasances of those powerful individuals and their corrupt allies will not be rewarded but, rather, they will be discredited and punished.
“It is in the light of this hope that we are calling on all Nigerians to believe again (not in INEC, not in the executive, but in the judiciary) and give the judiciary the benefit of the doubt.
“In the same vein, we are calling on the Justices of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court to rise up to the occasion by restoring the people’s confidence in the processes that were abused by INEC and also stem the deep decline of our democracy.
“We are, therefore, soliciting the cooperation of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and lawyers for democratic justice, to partner us to re-awaken the consciousness of the judiciary to its constitutional responsibility
of defending our frail democracy through the enthronement of justice.”