Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) presidential candidate, has warned of a scheme to destroy Nigeria’s judiciary.
According to reports, Atiku alleged in a statement signed by his media adviser that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is planning to intimidate judges hearing the petition disputing the outcome of the February 25 presidential election.
Atiku said that the APC has a history of intimidating the judiciary, citing the removal of former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, in 2019.
“The plot of the APC is simple: intimidate the judiciary, threaten judges with arrest so that they will bow to their will. This is a playbook from 2019 when they removed the CJN and then replaced him with Tanko Muhammad, who himself was later accused of corruption by his colleagues at the Supreme Court and resigned shamefully.”
He also said that the APC has accused about 10 judges of corruption and stormed their homes in an attempt to intimidate them.
Atiku therefore called on Nigerians to be vigilant and to resist any attempt to undermine the judiciary.
He also called on security agencies to remain professional and to resist being used as an instrument of oppression and intimidation against the judiciary.
The full statement reads:
There’s a sinister plot to undermine Nigeria’s judiciary, democracy – Atiku
Calls on Nigerians to be vigilant, puts international community on alert
Since the conclusion of the presidential election in February of this year and the attendant controversies in its trail, there have been unfortunate developments that are saddening to many Nigerians.
It is needless to say that the election that brought the current government into office is the worst in the annals of democratic politics in our country, even though it was promised to be the best ever.
Consequently, the outcome of that election and the arbitrariness of the electoral umpire to declare a winner against the requirement of the law has been the reason Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President of Nigeria (1999-2007) and Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party and other parties in the election have chosen the patriotic path to challenge the outcome of that election.
It is a truism that the judiciary is the only reasonable option in the quest for justice. As a matter of fact, our judiciary and the interpretations that they have given to our laws have been a major building block in our democratic journey so far.
Our laws are very clear about the prerequisite of separation of powers as a guarantee of an independent judiciary.
The idea behind that concept of an independent judiciary is to insulate that branch of government from unholy fraternity between its hallowed members and the rest of the society – especially the political actors.
But as proceedings on the controversial February 25 election continues at the court, there have been threats from the ruling party that aim to intimidate the judiciary from serving the duty of justice.
It is regrettable that the APC and, indeed, agents of President Bola Tinubu have ceaselessly chosen to stand in the way of justice by making catastrophic threats to anarchy if justice is not served according to their whims.
These and reports in the media about some heinous plots to harass justices sitting on the petition are ominous to peace and the security of our nation.
Our democracy gives the people of Nigeria the powers to choose their leaders, and our laws demand that our judiciary must be allowed to act independently without harassment and intimidation by the government or powerful interests.
To compromise the workings of our democracy and seeking to compromise the workings of our judiciary is an open call for anarchy.
As a party in the litigation that is currently reviewing the outcome of the last presidential election, we wish to express our intentions to do all that is within the law in resisting any attempt to undermine our fragile democracy.
Indeed, we are using this channel to call on the international community to be alerted.
Nigeria’s democracy should not be undermined by using the judiciary to serve the interest of the ruling party.
Sadly, this has become the stock in trade of the All Progressives Congress to intimidate the judiciary.
Recall that in 2019, the APC-led Federal Government similarly removed the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, when it was obvious that he would not bend to their will.
The Department of State Services similarly stormed the homes of judges in 2016 and 2017, all in a bid to beat the judiciary into submission.
“The plot of the APC is simple: intimidate the judiciary, threaten judges with arrest so that they will bow to their will. This is a playbook from 2019 when they removed the CJN and then replaced him with Tanko Muhammad, who himself was later accused of corruption by his colleagues at the Supreme Court and resigned shamefully.
“However, the APC government never went after Tanko Muhammad as they did in Onnoghen’s case because it was never about corruption but election. The APC has, over the years, built a reputation of judiciary intimidation. They accused about 10 judges of corruption, stormed their homes, and got them suspended and yet could not convict a single one of them. Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court could not recover from the embarrassment that he ended up dying in office.
“Now, they have initiated a new plot. This time around, they want to intimidate the judges into delivering favourable judgments for them at the election tribunal. We draw the attention of the international community and, indeed, Nigerians to this fresh plot to steal the mandate of over 200 million people.”
We also urge Nigerians to follow the golden rule that everlasting vigilance is the price of liberty.
On this vein, we urge all security agencies in the country to remain professional in their tasks and to oppose being exploited as a weapon of oppression and repression.