In a dramatic twist, the Supreme Court Wednesday affirmed President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory in the February 23 presidential election.
A seven-man panel of the court, led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, described the appeal as lacking in merit.
“The panel has read all the documents and exhibits filed in the case for two weeks and found the appeal to be lacking in merit,” Muhammad said in a terse judgment.
But Atiku and the PDP expressed deep reservation, with the candidate calling the judgment part of the challenges of democracy in the country.
“It is said that the Supreme Court is not final because it is infallible, but that it is infallible because it is final. While I believe that only God is infallible everywhere, and only Nigerians are infallible in our democracy, I must accept that the judicial route I chose to take, as a democrat, has come to a conclusion,” Atiku said in a statement, adding: “Whether justice was done, is left to the Nigerian people to decide. As a democrat, I fought a good fight for the Nigerian people. I will keep on fighting for Nigeria and for democracy, and also for justice.”
“One man, one woman, one youth, one vote, should be the only way to make gains in a democracy. And when that is thwarted, the clock starts to tick. Two and a half millennia ago, Sophocles said, ‘If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: ‘Thou shalt not ration justice.’ Nigeria will do well to observe this warning.
“This is not a time for too many words. It will suffice for me to remind Nigeria of this – we are an independent nation and we are the architects of our fate. If we do not build a free Nigeria, we may end up destroying her, and God forbid that that should be the case.”
Atiku warned that the nation might implode unless it embraces the principles of freedom. In a statement, he regretted: “The Nigerian judiciary, just like every estate of our realm, has been sabotaged and undermined by an overreaching and dictatorial cabal, who have undone almost all the democratic progress the Peoples Democratic Party and its administrations nurtured for 16 years, up until 2015.”He said: “To those who think they have broken my spirit, I am sorry to disappoint you. I am too focused on Nigeria to think about myself. I gave up that luxury 20 years ago. The question is not if I am broken. The question is if Nigeria is whole.
PDP allays defection fears
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Thursday ruled out any mass defections in the party due to the outcome of the Supreme Court judgment that dismissed the party’s presidential election petition against the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The party also raised the alarm over plans by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to manipulate the outcome of the party’s governorship primary elections in Kogi State with a spurious allegation that the commission did not monitor the primary election, thus questioning its credibility.
Addressing journalists Thursday at the party’s secretariat in Abuja, the National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said the party was strong, adding that the Supreme Court’s decision will not in any way affect it.
He said: “If for anything, the Supreme Court’s dismissal of our presidential petition will make the party stronger. This is because Nigerians perceived the judgment as anti-people. Indeed, the judgment will make Nigerians see PDP as a rallying ground because the party is always the champion of the people’s interest.
“It will not cause any mass defections; rather, it will make Nigerians who are suffering from bad government policies to see PDP much more as people-oriented party. Mark my words, PDP will rebound and the chances are brighter.”
The main opposition party also condemned and cautioned INEC and APC not to, in anyway, attempt to alter INEC’s monitoring report on the governorship primary in Kogi State or attempt to tamper with the record of submission of candidate for the November 16 governorship election.
Ologbondiyan said PDP’s warning was predicated on intelligence available to its national secretariat of plots by known INEC officers and certain APC leaders to alter INEC’s monitoring report and delist the PDP candidate in a bid to make Governor Yahaya Bello the only strong candidate and deny the people of Kogi State their desire to vote in its candidate, Musa Wada, as their next governor.
“Of course, this plot is dead on arrival, as our candidate, Musa Wada, remains duly nominated through the statutory processes of our primary, which was well covered in the monitoring report released by INEC. The PDP cautions that any attempt to tamper with his candidature will trigger the wrath of the people,” he added.
According to him, the party is already aware of every stage in this conspiracy against the Kogi State as well as the actors involved.
ASUU insists on strike over IPPIS
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Wednesday insisted on embarking on industrial action if the federal government stops the payment of their salaries for their refusal to enroll in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
The Benin, Sokoto and Ilorin zonal branches of the union said yesterday that their members would resort to their “no pay, no work” policy if the federal government carry out its threat to stop their salaries.
The Benin Zonal Coordinator of ASUU, Mr. Fred Esumen, said during an enlarged meeting of the Benin Zone of the union, held at the Ugbowo campus of University of Benin, in Benin City, that if the federal government sanctions its members, who do not enroll for the IPPIS on the October 31, 2019 deadline, ASUU will embark on “no pay, no work.”
The ASUU membership in the zone comprises University of Benin, Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma both in Edo State; Adekunle Ajasin University (Akungba, Akoko), University of Science and Technology (Okitipupa) both in Ondo State; Delta State University (Abraka) and the Federal University of Petroleum Resources (FUPRE) both in Delta State.
Esumen who addressed journalists, declared that the IPPIS policy being championed by the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF) was a mere directive, which cannot and should not take precedence over the law.
The directive, he said, violates the agreement ASUU had reached with the government in the past and the laws establishing universities via the miscellaneous act as amended in 2003 that vested powers in the Governing Councils to take control and manage funds of the universities including staff recruitment and promotion.”
The ASUU coordinator however, ruled out legal option in the pursuit of justice, saying that government does not honour agreement.
The Sokoto Zonal Coordinator of the union, Mr. Jamilu Shehu, said wednesday at a press conference held at the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua University, Katsina, that the attempt by federal government to “forcefully” enroll staff of universities in the IPPIS was not only an illegality, but total violation of university autonomy.
According to him, the IPPIS also violates university autonomy and FGN/ASUU agreement and did not tackle the peculiarity inherent in the nature and structure of universities.
Shehu explained that IPPIS does not capture the remuneration of staff on sabbatical, external examiners and assessors, earned academics allowances part time and consultancy services being rendered by lecturers across universities.
He stressed that the union viewed the claim by the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF) that ASUU’s position against IPPIS is an endorsement of corruption as cheap blackmail and calculated attempt to sabotage university autonomy.
How immunity saved Yahaya Bello from prosecution
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) wednesday said that it could not prosecute the Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, for double registration because he has immunity.
He also said that the commission could not enforce his disqualification for double registration because double registration is not an offence under the Electoral Act.
The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who made the clarification, also called on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to provide evidence that the commission collected a list of partisan ad-hoc staff from the All Progressives Congress (APC). Speaking yesterday at a quarterly media meeting with journalists, the INEC chairman said, “On the issue of double registration, there is nothing INEC can do with someone who has a constitutional immunity. The governor in question has a guaranteed constitutional immunity.
“We disciplined our staff that were involved because it is within our reach to take administrative action against them. Moreover, the Electoral Act does not permit us to disqualify any one based on the account of double registration. This is our handicap”.
On the allegation of receiving a prepared list from the APC, the INEC chairman challenged the PDP to provide actionable evidence as it is not enough to make frivolous allegations.
He said that it is common to hear from politicians make unsubstantiated allegations, citing the case of a politician in Anambra State who claimed that INEC had stocked two-lorry loads of ballot boxes to rig the elections against his party but after the elections, he sang another song.
“By and large, all we have to say is to ask those making these allegations to provide to INEC actionable evidence and we will move into action. Give us evidence and INEC will act swiftly”, Yakubu said.
Nigeria’s government wants to regulate social media
Nigeria’s Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed, hinted on Tuesday that the Federal Government plans to regulate social media. The minister, however, assured that the regulation would be in line with global best practices as obtained in the United Kingdom and Singapore among others.
Mohammed said the government has no plans to gag the press or stifle the media as being insinuated, adding that online television stations and web TVs would have to obtain operational licenses.
Making the clarifications at a briefing in Abuja against the backdrop of the ongoing campaign against fake news and hate speech, the minister said the government will never allow anarchists to take over the nation’s airwaves and media space.
Although he was not forthcoming on the details, Mohammed hinted that a committee will soon be set up on the modalities for sanitising the social media.
The minister did not entertain questions on the form of the proposed sanitization, warning that the recklessness in the social media could set the nation on fire if not controlled.
He said: “Gentlemen, since we launched our reform of the broadcast industry, many Nigerians have reached out to us, demanding that we also look into how to sanitise the Social Media space.
”I can assure you that we are also working on how to inject sanity into the Social Media space which, today, is totally out of control.
“ No responsible government will sit by and allow fake news and hate speech to dominate its media space, because of the capacity of this menace to exploit our national fault lines to set us against each other and trigger a national conflagration.
“That is why we will continue to evolve ways to tackle fake news and hate speech until we banish both.
“Therefore, gentlemen, we once again seek your support for our efforts to banish fake news and hate speech from our media space.”
Mohammed said the ongoing reforms in the broadcast industry and the proposed regulation of social media were not designed to repress press freedom and free speech.
He added: “But, as I have been saying, we have no intention of stifling free speech or gagging journalists or anyone. Again, this Administration has no intention of muzzling the media or stifling free speech.