Few hours after she bowed out of the Supreme Court bench, yesterday, Justice Olufunmilola Adekeye, revealed that politicians often besiege judges with mouth-watering bribe offers in order to win election petition cases in court.
Adekeye, who made the disclosure at the public presentation of a book, “Election Petition Practice & Procedure in Nigeria: A Practitioners Guide,” at the Federal Judicial Service Commission, FJSC, in Abuja, yesterday, described election years as most challenging periods for Nigerian Judges, stressing that at times, desperate politicians, in a bid to win at all cost, even attempt reaching out to judge through their relations, friends and close associates.
Admonishing judges across the federation to always heed to the oath of office they swore to uphold, Adekeye regretted the pervasive do-or-die syndrome among the political class, noting that unlike what obtains in the advanced countries, election losers in Nigeria, rather than congratulate their opponents after any electoral contest, resort to the courts.
According to her, “winners and losers should learn to congratulate each other after elections; that is never the case in Nigeria.
Immediately after every election begins a long drawn legal battle, it is always the do-or-die-syndrome. After every election, there must be litany of petitions.
“Politicians have developed the knack for using election petition periods as time to malign judges, batter them or say all sorts of things against them in the media.
“That notwithstanding, I encourage judges to always stand on the path of truth, play your own role according to the oath of office you swore to uphold. Don’t let them discourage you. The truth is that no judge will go to any politician to seek for bribe; it is these same politicians that will start looking for the judges all over the place, through relations, friends and close associates.
“As Nigerians, we must always stand up and defend our judges and protect their integrity. It is a pity that most times, even the political class does not understand the role of judges in democratic settings.”
Tinubu harps on free, fair polls
Meanwhile, the former Governor of Lagos State, Chief Ahmed Bola Tinubu, in his speech, which was read by a member of the House of Representatives, Bimbo Daramola, maintained that it would be difficult for Nigerians to live in peace without an acceptable and just system of government.
He said: “How can governments continue to have legitimacy unless they are formed by the will of the people they govern?
“How can the will of the people be determined except in elections that are free and fair? And, how can elections be free and fair unless all participants abide by the ground rules and have access to an independent and impartial arbiter in the event of disputes?
“I have posed the questions above in order to underline the utmost importance of the subject on which this book has been written. Without doubt, the proper and efficient adjudication of election petitions have a direct link to the peace and prosperity of the nation. Elections must be conducted in accordance with acceptable and well-defined rules and aggrieved persons must have access to justice.”
“Now, having access to justice is not sufficient. Anyone with knowledge of how judicial systems operate will appreciate that the knowledge and mastery of the application of the rules of court is much more important. This is even more so, where the matter belongs to that class of specialized subjects with which only few legal practitioners are conversant.
“It is on this basis that we must all commend and applaud the author of this book in documenting knowledge in this all-important area of law and at this stage of our national development. As a person with firsthand knowledge of Nigeria’s electoral system and its impact on governance, I am very pleased with the publication of this book,”
Among those that attended the book launch yesterday included the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice , Mariam Aloma Mukhtar who was represented by Justice Walter Onnoghen of the apex court, Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi and a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mohammed Lawal Uwais.