The admonition by the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adamu Abdul-Kafarati, to judges, asking them to refrain from granting interim ex-parte orders on political matters, appears to be the crucial directive that will shape political events in due course as we approach the 2019 polls.
The CJ had disclosed on Monday at the commencement of 2018/2019 legal year that he had issued a directive to judges of the Federal High Court to stop granting interim ex-parte order in all political cases brought before their courts.
According to the CJ, the directive is part of efforts to ensure that the court is not used by politicians to scuttle the political process and disrupt the peace of the country.
He said: “In an attempt to forestall any hiccups and the blame on the court by the political gladiators, I have during this vacation issued a circular that interim orders ex-parte shall not be granted in political cases brought before the court.
I believe that controversies especially in political cases can be reduced when the court takes a decision after hearing all the parties in the case.
“It is also extremely important that all political cases that may affect any of the parties which are still pending in any of our courts be concluded without further waste of time to afford all candidates the opportunity to pursue their political ambitions.”
Kafarati had also on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 reiterated the directive with a modification, saying that interim ex-parte order can only be granted on “very exceptional cases.”
The reasons adduced is that it is better to hear all sides of the matter before a decision is taken and to minimise controversy in the adjudication process that have potentials to scuttle the political process and disrupt the peace of the country.
We entirely agree with the numerous efforts being made by the judiciary to ensure sanity in the granting of interim ex-parte orders by trial Courts, essentially as the nomination by the political parties through primary election begin this month.
But we wish to advise that the judiciary must exercise caution to avoid promoting impunity and dictatorship among the political party leaders who in recent past have demonstrated unlawful tendencies by holding their primaries in violation of their own party guidelines just to ensure that only their anointed candidates get party nominations.
We recall that in 2014, the Federal High Court adopted similar measures following a circular issued by the then Chief Judge, Justice Ibrahim Auta, which scuttled the hearing of more than 12 suits filed against President Muhammadu Buhari over his WAEC certificate and all other suits filed that challenged the defections of five governors of the Peoples Political Party (PDP) and the then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, to All Progressives Congress (APC).
Similar scenario is piling up before the Federal High Court with more than eight cases already pending on the defection of Senate President, Bukola Saraki, while several other suits have also been filed challenging the defections of three governors.
We are of the opinion that timely deposition of political case remain the panacea for stability and enthronement of elusive rule of law in our society.
A situation where 2015 pre election cases are still pending in our Courts five months before the expiration of the tenure in contestation is to say the least repulsive to the noble idea of justice.
We wish to submit that cases arising from election disputes must not only be concluded at trial Court before the end of October as directed by CJ Kafarati, we strongly believe that it is possible to conclude all election cases even at the appellate courts timeously before those who win election take oath of office. The development will restore public confidence in the judiciary.