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ADESINA: Judiciary Ready To Act Fairly

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Mr. Dele Adesina is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). On possible ground of litigations after the elections, he told KAMAL TAYO OROPO that the judiciary is ready to ensure that the constitution is not breached. 

There are perceived legal lacunas that might be exploited after the election. Are you concerned about some of these issues? 

FRANKLY, it is not fair at all. It is not an issue that we should allow ourselves to worry about. Such issues would amount to pre-emptying the outcome of the electoral processes and giving the players instruments to go and work on. 

     I cannot talk of possible grounds of petition of an election that has not been held. I am a senior counsel. These issues are all sub-judice. Already, some cases are in court. But since they are all sub-judies, it would not be proper to comment on them. 

Yet, how ready would you say the judiciary is, in relation to ensuring a desirable interpretation of the constitution and the electoral act; against the backdrop of deepening democracy in the country?

   I believe the judiciary is ever ready to discharge its responsibility under the constitution. The people that should be ready are those that should make the judiciary to work maximally and optimally. For example, we still experience the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria, JUSUN, strike in many states of the federation. 

   No matter how ready the judges are, and the lawyers are, if, for example, the supporting staffs that constitute membership of JUSUN, are not working, there is nothing the judiciary can do. 

   So, the respective Attorney Generals of the states should sort things out with the governments of each state and let work resume fully before the election. Don’t forget that it was this strike that jeopardised the interest of a good number of people, who probably would have been instituted on pre-election or the other.  They couldn’t because they were on strike.  The strike of JUSUN is not the fault of the judiciary.  I think the judiciary is ever ready to discharge its responsibility. They have always discharge their responsibility.

How do you react to the impression that the judiciary could be used to scuttle the democratic process and the rule of law in such a manner that would have negative consequences on the electoral processes?

   These are unfortunate speculations. The judiciary operates under a constitution that is written. They know their roles and their duties. If anybody behaves in a way that contravenes his or her oath of office under the constitution, there are repercussions. The judicial arm of government is the only arm of government that has a built-in mechanism to sanction its members when they err. 

   So, when people make all these speculative assertions, it is important for us to caution them and let them know how the judiciary works. Speculations would not help anybody, just as postulations are not facts.; they are not realities. For anybody to be thinking that the judiciary can be used to scuttle the electoral process, we must remind them that it is highly uncharitable to that institution. It is not fair to the institution. 

   Also, people must know that there is no alternative to the judiciary in any nation. The only alternative to the judiciary is anarchy. There is need for people to consistently build trust and confidence in the system, rather than running the system down.  

How confident are you that despite all these, the election would still hold and the inauguration of the victor would go as scheduled? How ready is the authority in ensuring this?

   If by the authority, you mean the Federal Government, it is not the duty of the Federal Government to conduct elections. It is the duty of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to do so. And I want to believe that if INEC were ready to put its feet down, we would conduct the election. The case of the INEC can be likened to you appointing an Oba. Immediately you appoint that Oba, he becomes bigger than you. The Federal Government cannot dictate to INEC. And the electoral commission has assured us, over and over again, and even up till yesterday (Wednesday), of its readiness to conduct election. 

   The problem I have is that Nigerians have become so pessimistic, that we don’t seem to trust anybody, anymore. No nation thrives like that. There is need to trust the leader that they would do that which is right. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to be doing that.

But how inspiring are the leaders in doing exactly what they promised to do?

Yes, you are right to some extent that there must be sources of inspiration. But leadership is not just that one person over there; the people decide who their leaders would be. But even in Nigeria, how many people have a say in choosing their leader? How many has a say in who becomes their leader? The question of leadership in the country is a very complex issue.  And it permeates all ramifications. It is not limited to a particular level of government. It is evident in the Federal Government, State Government and the Local Government.

   We should see what happens between now and March 8 when the official distribution of voters card expires before we make a comprehensive analysis as to the readiness of the INEC in respect of these areas we are talking about. If art that time, many people are yet to receive their PVC, then we may begin to look at what are the options on the table. Will the options be disenfranchising people that have not got, even though they registered? Would the options be, maybe, there could be a mixture? Whether the election should proceed on the basis of PVC alone, or on the basis of PVC and TVC simultaneously or on the basis of TVC alone.



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