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Moves Against Use of Smart Card Reader for Election Retrogressive –TMG

…Berates Supreme Court for not Giving Reasons After Judgments

The dust raised by the recent Supreme Court rulings on Akwa Ibom and Rivers States Governorship Elections is yet to settle, as the Nigeria’s foremost civil society coalition, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), has berated attempt by a section of the country’s judiciary to trivialize the significance of the smart card reader, in a standard election, as well as faulted the culture of adducing reasons, long after the delivery of judgment.

Chairman of the group, Comrade Ibrahim Zikirullahi, made these submissions Wednesday in Abuja, at a press Conference organized by it, on a State of the Nation.

While contending that the apex court in the two instances (Akwa Ibom and Rivers States) only delivered judgment at the expense of justice, it accused that the attempt by the court to “upend the card reader, was retrogressive”.

“We make bold to say that while the legal gymnastics behind the assault on the card reader, is best known to the Supreme Court, the open reward for electoral impunity does not resonate with the Nigerian people. The card reader has a history; it was well presented to stakeholders and approval was received before its deployment for the 2015 elections. Beyond this, the nation’s Constitution and the Electoral Act empower INEC to make guidelines for running elections. As such, whether there is an express legal backing for it or not, the card reader has come to stay” Comrade Zikirullahi stressed.

TMG which noted that its position was free of partisanship nor about an attempt to award victory to any political party, held that rather than engage in judicial acrobatics, it expected the apex court to do some thorough research on the place of the card reader in the nation’s electoral system to see whether it is adding value or not.

The group, Comrade Zikirullahi asserted was not impressed by the “incongruous tendency wherein the Supreme Court gives judgment first, only to start exploring and adducing reasons for such judgments several weeks after”, adding that the expectation of Nigerians was that the judgments and the legal reasoning behind them should have be given simultaneously.
“It is no longer acceptable to give judgments, and then begin a frantic search for reasons to validate such pronouncements” TMG declared.

On war against corruption by the present administration, TMG which also condemned remote attempt by the beneficiaries of corrupt practices, to truncate the drive on the premise of rule of law, demanded the Federal Government (FG) to take more extra- ordinary measures in the battle.

It specified that the organization was keen to see all military personnel involved in the #DasukiArmsgate tried under military law, and those found guilty in the end, to be “stripped of their ranks, forfeit their pension, gratuities and other such post-retirement benefits they would have otherwise been entitled to”.

TMG also restated its call for a robust partnership with civil society and labour in the war against looters.

While expressing worry on the ignoble roles of some judges, Comrade Zikirullahi commended the few courageous judges acting on the side of justice.

“But for those acting on the side of rich looters of the Nigerian common wealth, they must realize that they are writing, not just their own history, but the history of their children. TMG is miffed by the current discriminatory system of one brand of justice for the rich and another for the poor. A dominant section of the judiciary has continued to carry on as if the justice system in Nigeria is made for two different sets of citizens.

“When a rich looter is brought before the courts, the next thing is that the judge will start entertaining frivolous requests for bail, while an ordinary thief is held in custody until the end of his trial. The subliminal message, which the judiciary is passing to the Nigerian public, especially the youth, is that once the plunder is big enough, justice is automatically tempered. This is a wrong message and a collective national headache that has to be cured”, the group noted.

TMG Leader therefore called on the National Judicial Council (NJC) to wake up from its slumber, contending that the process of holding judicial officials to account was a necessary step towards restoring sanity and confidence in the Nigerian system.

Comrade Zikirullahi established that the National Assembly (NASS) just like other arms of government has a significant role to play in the Nation building process.

Despite this, TMG head expressed worry that the Federal lawmakers did not share the same philosophy with the Executive. The activist stated that it was worrisome that at a time everyone was talking about how the Treasury Single Account (TSA) has brought transparency to government finance; “the National Assembly is busy resisting it”.

Zikirullahi said: “It therefore means that as things stand, the Nigerian people do not have an idea of how many accounts the National Assembly that purports to represent them operates. A National Assembly that acts as if it is above the laws of the land, holds no goofor the country.

“Little wonder, the leadership of the National Assembly is currently morally challenged. That integrity deficit has been accentuated by the recent Supreme Court judgment, which ordered the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki to go face criminal trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). Whatever modicum of respect enjoyed by the Senate would be further obliterated by the time the number three citizen is mopping from the dock, and answering to charges of false asset declaration.

“TMG expects Dr. Saraki to put the sanctity of the legislature above every other consideration, by stepping down immediately. While we agree that his trial at the CCT does not automatically translate to guilt over the charges, we call on the Senate President to follow global best practice” Comrade Zikirullahi advocated.

Speaking on the 2016 budget and the National Economy, TMG hailed the Appropriation Bill and commended President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration for the conception of cutting edge social protection programmes which collectively aimed to lift about two million citizens out of the dungeon of poverty, yet held “good intention is not the only thing to consider”.

On the FG plan conditional N5000 cash transfer to the unemployed and vulnerable Nigerians, TMG admonished that the component could have been channeled into a well thought out programme of industrialization targeting Nigerians in the 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs).

“It is our considered view that establishing industries to employ citizens, is a much more sustainable approach to wealth creation than giving out paltry sums, which may not eventually make a lasting impact on the living standard of those concerned. Our position is that a cottage or agro-allied industry which is set up with the sum of N1 billion for example, is capable of providing jobs for hundreds of young people. So if the sum of N1 billion is devoted to each of the 774 LGAs and conscientiously managed, a phenomenal reversal would have happened with the debilitating unemployment situation in the country.

“There is no gainsaying the fact that using the Local Governments as the channel for getting development to the ordinary people is a critical task before the Buhari government” stressed TMG.

The group also observed that to reach the grassroots, and halt the often catastrophic drift from the rural to the urban areas, the FG must empower the Local Governments to become hubs for participatory governance.

It insisted: “We make bold to state that part of the grand scale corruption and the emperor syndrome that has festered in the states comes from the systematic hijacking of the resources that should have ordinarily gone to Local Governments. The social protection schemes being put forward by the administration, present an opportunity to correct the deliberate alienation of Nigerians from the governance process”.

Consequently, Comrade Zikirullahi held that TMG expected that the State Governors would take a cue from some of the pro-people ideas being espoused at the federal level, “instead of throwing up their hands and feigning helplessness in the face of dwindling oil revenue”.

“Any State Chief Executive who is unable to meet these obligations, including obligations to workers in his workforce should honourably resign. Governance is by choice and not force” TMG challenged.

The group which also expressed shock that up till now, it is a big surprise that none of the 36 States of the Federation has joined the FG in launching a full scale war against the “evil of corruption” called on the central Government to encourage the states to begin exploring ways to stand on their feet instead of waiting bowl in hand for monthly allocations, which is basically a “euphemism for unearned money that is so easily frittered away”.

It observed that the current cash crunch in the system was an opportunity to know those interested in governance and who have the capacity to govern, as well as those who have merely embarked on excursion to the respective government houses in the states, with the sole aim of enjoying and looting at the expense of the people.

To this end, the group called on the FG to stop playing “Father Christmas” to the states, contending, that the states, which have failed the Nigerian people so terribly must be made to reinvent themselves.

Comrade Zikirullahi thanked the mass media for the unwavering support in amplifying the voice of the group on critical national issues.


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