The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has called for urgent reforms in Nigeria’s electoral and judicial systems in the wake of the recent ruling by the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Enugu State, which has left the nation in disbelief.
HURIWA, a leading civil rights advocacy group dedicated to upholding human rights and justice, expressed its outrage at the tribunal’s verdict, which, according to the group, defies logic and raises serious questions about the integrity of Nigeria’s electoral system.
In a statement released on Saturday, signed by the National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, HURIWA stated that the tribunal’s decision in the strongest terms, describing it as a gross miscarriage of justice that undermines the principles of fairness and transparency in elections.
He asserted that the ruling not only condones potential acts of alleged certificate forgery but also sends a distressing message that political aspirants can manipulate their qualifications with impunity precisely because the Tribunal deliberately failed to address that aspect of the petition but rather played around flowery language to deodorise the panel’s decision to unleash injustice.
“The three-man tribunal, in a unanimous judgment delivered by its chairman, Justice Kudirat Akano, dismissed the petitions of the Labour Party and its candidate, Chijioke Edeoga, on the basis that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) certificate is not a qualification to contest a governorship election. This reasoning demonstrates a troubling lack of understanding of the law and its application.
“One of the most troubling aspects of the ruling is the acknowledgment by the tribunal that Governor Mbah may or may not have presented a likely forged NYSC certificate.
“The Tribunal which opted to deal with that matter, would have applied the law but rather applied sophistry and ended up not resolving critical questions.”
The tribunal conceded that “the certificate was presented but argued that because Mbah did not ‘intend’ to use it to aid his qualification, he cannot be disqualified.
“This dubious reasoning essentially tolerates potential forgery and undermines the very essence of electoral transparency and honesty.”
Decrying this shocking concession, HURIWA argued that it sets a dangerous precedent, eroding the foundations of democracy and accountability, just as the group emphasized that the implications of this miscarriage of justice extend far beyond Enugu State, adding that it undermines the credibility of Nigeria’s electoral process and damages the trust of the Nigerian people in their government institutions.
“However, the larger implication of this ruling cannot be ignored. It effectively invalidates the practice of presenting a degree certificate presupposing possession of an NYSC Certificate or NYSC discharge. If someone presents a certificate that is later deemed forged by the issuing authority, it raises fundamental questions about the tribunal’s negligence in addressing this issue.
“Why did the tribunal not thoroughly investigate the authenticity of the certificate since it was submitted, especially if it claims that NYSC certification is not a requirement? If it truly holds no importance, why did the candidate submit it in the first place? These are glaring inconsistencies that the tribunal failed to address, leaving room for skepticism and doubt about the impartiality of the judgment.”
Therefore, while fully endorsing the decision of the Labour Party to appeal the case immediately in light of the scandalous ruling, HURIWA called on the appellate courts to correct this grave injustice and uphold the principles of fairness, transparency, and integrity in Nigeria’s elections, with the belief that the citizens of Enugu State and Nigeria as a whole deserve nothing less than a fair, just, and credible electoral process that reflects the true will of the people.
“Furthermore, the decision of the Tribunal has ominous implications for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) itself. If this judgment is upheld by the Appeal Court or Supreme Court, it effectively undermines the significance of the NYSC certificate, suggesting that anyone can simply present any certificate without consequences since in the first place, it bears no qualifying relevance as interpreted or argued by this panel of judges in the Enugu gubernatorial election petition tribunal. It puts into question the very relevance of the NYSC institution in Nigeria.”
In conclusion, HURIWA called for urgent reforms in Nigeria’s electoral and judicial systems, insisting that accountability and the rule of law must prevail over political expediency and that the tribunal’s verdict should serve as a rallying cry for a better, fairer, and more just Nigeria.
While expressing its unwavering commitment to the cause of justice and human rights in Nigeria, HURIWA vowed to continue its advocacy for a fair and transparent electoral process where the rights of the people are upheld and the principles of democracy are respected.