2019: Nigerian judges get new directive that could alter political cases

September 18, 2018 Florence Enweliku

As the Nigerian judiciary enters a new legal year, a new directive to help ensre justice in the build up to the 2019 elections has been issued.

The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Adamu Kafarati, on Monday directed judges to put a stop to the use of ex-parte orders in political cases.

An ex-parte order is a directive which a court could grant without necessarily hearing from both parties involved in a matter.

The directive, coming months before the 2019 general elections, is expected to have significant effects on the array of politically related cases expected to spring forth in the approaching electoral season.

Explaining the reason for the directive, Mr Kafarati said his decision was motivated by the need to curb the hiccups blamed on the courts from the actions of political gladiators.

“I have during this vacation issued a circular that interim orders ex-parte shall not be granted in any political cases brought before the court. I believe that controversies can be reduced when the court takes a decision after hearing all the parties especially in political cases,” he said.

The directive was given on Monday at the opening of the 2018/2019 legal year, following two months of vacation by the courts.

Before the commencement of this year’s vacation, a number of political cases were pending before the courts, while a few others joined in, during the vacation.

One of the cases was the suit filed in court following controversy that trailed the defection of Senate President Bukola Saraki from the ruling All Progressives Congress to the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party.

Following Mr Saraki’s defection, the calls for his resignation strengthened with security forces blocking the way to the national assembly in what was described as an attempt by the APC-led government to facilitate the removal of Mr Saraki. a result of that drama in July, two senators, Isa Misau (Bauchi central) and Rafiu Adebayo (Kwara West) approached the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, with three applications seeking to stop the planned removal of Mr Saraki.

An ex- parte application sought in relation to these suits had been refused by the vacation judge, Nnamdi Dimgba, on August 29.

Mr Dimgba adjourned the matter till September 25 for hearing.

Another politically related case which also enjoyed hearings following ex-parte applications is that of a senator, Ovie Omo-Agege, against members of the Senate.

Although Mr Omo-Agege’s suit was first brought pursuant to his fundamental rights, the content of the matter, ranks it clearly among the list of political cases still in court.

Following attempts by Mr Saraki-led National Assembly to veto a decision of Mr Buhari who had declined accent to some changes in the electoral act, Mr Omo-Agege accused his colleagues of attempting to usurp the office of the President.

In a reaction, the senators suspended Mr Omo-Agege for 90 days, resulting in a suit which brought about the nullification of the said suspension, by an order of court.

However, Mr Omo-Agege’s lawyer, Alex Izinyon, said his client has not been paid, since his resumption. Mr Izinyon, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, returned to court where he obtained two ex-parte orders seeking to serve the accused by substituted means and through the Nigerian media.

Another application worthy of note with regards to Mr Kafarati’s directive is the case involving the disputed primaries conducted by members of the Osun State All Progressives Congress (APC).

A case seeking the nullification of the primaries is slated for hearing on September 27.

The suit was filed by an Osun State APC member, Kunle Adegoke, against his contender in the state’s party primaries, Gboyega Oyetola, whom he accuses of conniving with the incumbent governor, Rauf Aregbesola, to rig party primaries.

Although the case had been called in open court, the matter was adjourned following the absence of the respondents on September 13.

As the 2019 elections approach, Nigerians can only wait to observe the impact of Mr Kafarati’s directive

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