Supreme Court ruling on card reader subverted democratic rights, says Sagay
• Insists no immunity for judges in criminal cases
• Urges free, fair polls in 2019
The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption (PACAC) says the ruling by the Supreme Court, which invalidated the use of card readers and accorded prominence to the electoral register subverted the people’s will and their democratic rights.
Sagay, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), spoke recently at the 2018 Chris Ogunbanjo Lecture Series in Lagos, noting: “The most disturbing illustration of the manner in which the judiciary has failed the nation is the series of election petition judgments in which the Supreme Court held that the use of card readers in elections was not covered by law.
“In the process, the massive abuse of the electoral register to rig elections was allowed to prevail.”
The import of the ruling, he said: “Was that the will of the people and our democratic rights were subverted. The Supreme Court failed to recognise the larger issue of free, fair and credible elections, which strengthen our democratic system, and succumbed to a narrow technical argument about the supremacy of the thoroughly abused and discredited electoral register over the scientifically accurate card readers and our democracy was diminished and justice suffered a major set back.”
Delivering a paper titled: The Travail Of Liberal Democracy In Nigeria, Sagay maintained that “no provision of any law or the constitution provides immunity for judges against criminal and civil actions, except for a civil wrong committed in the course of their duties. Only the president, vice president, governors and deputy governors are so protected in Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
He cautioned against arbitrary use of power by security and anti-corruption agencies, saying: “Law enforcement and anti-corruption agencies should not make any arrests and prosecute doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, architects, quantity surveyors among others until they are first tried and punished by their professional associates.”
He added: “Liberal constitution defines the democratic character of the state .The purpose of a constitution is often seen as a limit on the authority of the government, where there is separation of powers, an independent judiciary and a system of checks and balances between branches of government, and above all, it is governed by the rule of law.”
On the provisions of the system and institutions guaranteeing the liberal democracy, Sagay listed four parts of the constitution containing “fundamental rights, including the right to life, freedom from torture and inhuman and degrading treatment, right to personal liberty, right to fair hearing, freedom of expression, association and the press, freedom from discrimination and right to peaceful assembly among others.”
“The constitution prohibits any derogation from private and family life, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association derogation which is permissible in limited circumstances by any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society,” Sagay stated.
He, however, sought free, fair and credible elections next year, regretting that the country was wasting its potential human and natural resources capable of making it the best nation in the world.
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