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Swearing-in of New Judges: Akpata, LP Guber Candidate Accuses Obaseki of riding roughshod on another arm of government - TELL Magazine

Swearing-in of New Judges: Akpata, LP Guber Candidate Accuses Obaseki of riding roughshod on another arm of government

Olumide Osaigbovo Akpata
Olumide Osaigbovo Akpata

The candidate of the Labour Party (LP) for the September 21 gubernatorial election in Edo State, Olumide Osaigbovo Akpata, has described as “reprehensible” the conduct of Governor Godwin Obaseki in swearing-in only five out of the eight high court judges nominated by the National Judicial Council, NJC almost one year ago.

The NJC had during its meeting June 14 and 15, 2023, appointed Obayuwana Osarenren Mathias, Ehinon Anthony Okoh, Ovenseri Otamere, Bright Eraze Oniha and Osayande Ikwuemosi Awawu, Edoghogho Eboigbe, Ojo Maureen Osa and Godwin Jeff Okundamiya as Judges of the state High Court but the governor had refused to swear them in.

However, swearing in five of the judges at the Festival Hall in Government House, Benin-City, on Friday, Governor Obaseki explained that the three nominees were excluded from the exercise as a result of petitions against them. Left out were Edoghogho Eboigbe, Ojo Maureen Osa and Godwin Jeff Okundamiya.

In a statement he personally signed and released to the media on Friday, Akpata called on the National Assembly, NASS, and the newly constituted Constitution Review Committees of both chambers of the NASS to urgently initiate constitutional amendments that would permanently insulate the judicial appointment process from what he described as “reckless political interference”.

“While one must congratulate the five newly sworn-in Judges on their well-deserved appointments, it is a matter of profound regret that their achievements, and those of the three Judges, who are yet to be sworn in, have been tarnished by the grave injustice they have endured at the hands of Governor Godwin Obaseki.

“Sadly, this is not an isolated incident but part of a disturbing pattern of Governor Obaseki’s flagrant disregard for due process and the separation of powers. In 2019, he similarly obstructed attempts to swear in 14 duly elected members of the Edo State House of Assembly, displaying the same contempt for democratic tenets and institutions.

“For one who claims to be a democrat, such autocratic conduct is utterly reprehensible, and quite unfortunately, these ignoble actions will stand out as his enduring legacy, which no amount of spinning or propaganda can alter.

“Such conduct strikes at the very heart of our democracy and the principle of separation of powers. It represents a contemptuous attempt to subjugate the Judiciary to the whims of the executive, stripping it of its independence and reducing it to a mere appendage of the governing party’s agenda. This is precisely why I have been at the vanguard of the struggle for comprehensive judicial reforms to emancipate our judiciary from the suffocating grip of executive overreach at all levels of government.

“I hereby call upon the National Assembly (NASS) and the newly constituted Constitution Review Committees of both chambers of the NASS to treat this matter with the urgency it deserves. We must initiate constitutional amendments that will permanently insulate the judicial appointment process from such reckless political interference. Concrete safeguards must be established to forestall any recurrence of this invidious travesty, not just in Edo State but across the entire Federal Republic of Nigeria. Failing to do so risks inflicting irreparable damage to our democratic institutions and the fundamental rights of our citizens.

“To the five newly sworn-in Judges, I reiterate my congratulations and urge M’Lords to embrace their new roles as beacons of justice, equality, and the rule of law. Their integrity, impartiality, and commitment to upholding the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will be the ultimate bulwark against the erosion of our cherished democratic principles and values.

“As we approach the pivotal 2024 gubernatorial elections, we must demand accountability, transparency, and an unwavering commitment to upholding the sanctity of our institutions from those who would presume to lead us.”

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