The Plateau Conundrum: Why The Supreme Court Must Intervene

The Plateau Conundrum: Why The Supreme Court Must Intervene

Onwuasoanya FCC Jones

When the Supreme Court restored the mandate of Governor Caleb Muftwang on the very logical and variously proven ground that the internal affairs of political Parties should be left to those political Parties, and that those who litigate on issues affecting internal Party processes are mere busybodies, I knew that while Supreme Court delivered impartial justice in that case, they might have set grounds for serious political crisis in Plateau State, where lower courts had already sacked many members of the State and National Assemblies on the same grounds for which Supreme Court dismissed the challenge on Muftwang’s election.

Today, many legislators from Plateau State are understandably ventilating their grievances, including the ongoing attempt by some of them to forcefully resume their functions in the State Assembly Complex.

While we can sympathize with these legislators, the reality on the ground is that they are no longer members of the Plateau State Assembly, even though it is glaring that their eviction from the House is an act of injustice and shouldn’t have happened in the first place. But, the fact that our Constitution does not allow cases affecting legislators to go beyond the Court of Appeal, puts these legislators in a very difficult position. It would be disheartening for these legislators to watch the mandate freely given to them by their people, being usurped by those they comfortably defeated.

Democracy makes it impossible for laws to be cast on iron because it allows for continuous improvement on our laws. The essence of the judiciary is to serve justice and discourage citizens from taking laws into their own hands. However, if citizens are robbed of justice, especially, in such a glaring manner as it is in Plateau, then, then they might lose confidence in the judiciary and resort to self-help, which could in turn lead to anarchy.

I would advise that instead of taking laws into their own hands by forcefully resuming plenary or for the Speaker of the House of Assembly to unilaterally declare that he will not swear the APC members in, the right thing to do is for these genuinely aggrieved PDP members to head to the Supreme Court to seek a review of the judgement sacking them and while this process is on, what lawyers would call “status quo” should be maintained. In this case, the status quo is that neither the PDP members should resume plenary nor should the Speaker swear in the beneficiaries of the Appeal Court injustice.

The Supreme Court would be concerned that should they entertain the application for review by these Plateau lawmakers, it could be inundated with similar requests from across Nigeria. But, this is hardly correct as the Plateau case is different from other cases. In Plateau, the material of the cases is the same across all the cases filed against the governor and the legislators, and the Supreme Court specifically ruled on this matter in the case of the governor, therefore, it should assume jurisdiction and correct the injustice meted to these citizens, especially, as failing to do so might trigger epic crisis that might completely destabilise the State.

The Supreme Court can borrow a leaf from the US Supreme Court, which has taken up many cases, that it would ordinarily not have taken up, but given that elections are around the corner and their failure to adjudicate on some of these matters could throw the country into avoidable chaos, the SCOTUS have weighed in, even in some situations where these cases have not been exhaustively heard at the lower courts.

The Nigerian Supreme Court is not a mere arm of the government, but ideally, the conscience of the nation. The justices are like deities who must intervene in controversial and dangerous cases like the Plateau case, or forever bear responsibility for any breakdown of law and order in that State or elsewhere. As the apex court of justice in the land, it must not shy away from preserving justice on the excuse of “status barred” or any other such technicality.

May Nigeria Prevail!

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