The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, should no longer be trusted by Nigerians to conduct the 2019 general election because “he has become a very dangerous threat to our democracy”, a legal practitioner and civil rights activist, Ugochukwu Osuagwu, warned on Saturday.
The lawyer cum activist issued the warning on Saturday in reaction to the bench warrant issued on the INEC chairman about two weeks ago by Justice Stephen Pam of a Federal High Court in Abuja, for flouting the orders of the Supreme Court.
Speaking during a press conference in Abuja, Osuagwu, Head of Saint Francis Xavier Advocates, a law firm, said the head of an apex democratic institution like the INEC chairman could not be seen to be disobeying court orders.
He said: “If he can flout Court orders, the INEC chairman can no longer be trusted to conduct any election in Nigeria, he has become a problem to democracy.”
According to him, INEC remained an institution that is beyond a single personality, saying allowing Yakubu to conduct the 2019 election would be putting Nigeria in danger.
He lamented what he described as the “gradual erosion of democratic values anchored on the sacrosant of the rule of law”, adding that head of such an electoral body who does not respect court orders amounted to a disaster waiting to happen.
Osuagwu further said a situation where top public officers could flagrantly disobey court rulings jeopardises democracy and puts the country at high risk.
While citing the recent case of Imo State where the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice refused to inaugurate the Deputy Governor based on a court ruling, he stated that when court orders are obeyed, democratic values are deepened.
He said: “Nobody is above the law.
“Journalists should continue to beam their search lights on such matters until court orders are complied with by all.”
Osuagwu also decried the fact that Yakubu appealed the court order at the time judges were on a recess, describing it as a a legal gaffe.
He said the INEC boss ought to have first obeyed the court order before making the appeal, adding: “After all, he wasn’t invited to a firing squad.
“He could have first showed up in court before making the appeal.”
Justice Pam had issued the bench warrant for the arrest of INEC chairman following his absence from the court proceedings in defiance to the repeated summons.
The court had summoned him to appear to defend the contempt suit instituted against him by the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party in Anambra State, Ejike Oguebego.
Yakubu’s lawyer, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), had informed the court that his client was absent from court because he was leading a team of electoral officers from the Economic Community of West African States to Mali.
He had also filed an appeal before the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal challenging the warrant of arrest issued against him.
Awomolo in the six-ground notice of appeal said: “No order was enrolled and served on Professor Mahmood Yakubu for his personal appearance in court. The court did not give Professor Yakubu or his counsel opportunity to explain his absence in court and why the Bench warrant should not be issued.”