Who influenced the nomination of Justice Jimi Bada, an indigene of Osun State, as the Chairman of the five-man Appeal Court Panel to decide the governorship tussle of Bayelsa State?
Knowing fully well that it was the same Justice Bada who extended the tenure of Timipre Sylva in office as governor before the verdict was upturned by the Supreme Court, what is the mandate given to the judge this time around, ahead of the judgement in Abuja?
Is it a coincidence that Justice Bada and all the other members of the Appeal Court Panel – Justice H. Mukhtar (Bauchi), Justice T.S. Yakubu (Kogi), Justice T.O. Awotoye (Osun) and Justice N. Okoronkwo (Imo) – are indigenes of states controlled by the All Progressives Congress (APC), the party on which platform Sylva contested the election?
These are the questions on the lips on Bayelsans as they await the judgement from the Appeal Court.
Governor Henry Seriake Dickson, who contested the election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was declared winner by the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal.
A civil society organisation, Movement for the Independence of the Judiciary in the Niger Delta (MIJN), which raised the alarm, in a statement by its National President, Patrice Egribido, said that Sylva and members of his party were already celebrating and organising victory parties in Yenagoa.
According to him, Sylva actually “influenced the nomination of Justice Jimi Bada, the chairman of the five-man Appeal Court to declare him governor.”
Egribido said: “Sylva and Justice Bada have been long standing friends and have remained inseparable. Justice Bada was the judge who presided over the Appeal Court that capriciously extended the tenure of Sylva in office as Governor of Bayelsa State before the Supreme Court upturned it.
“The panel chairman, Justice Bada, hails from Osun State. The other members of the panel are Justice H. Mukhtar, Justice T.S Yakubu, Justice T.O Awotoye and Justice N. Okoronkwo.
“Since the Appeal Court reserved judgement on the Chief Timipre Sylva’s petition, APC camps in Bayelsa have been inundated with jubilation. We also hear that Sylva reportedly boasted before his trusted allies that he nominated the learned Justice Bada to apparently do a hatchet job for him.”
Having earned a reputation for dishing out controversial judgements such as the elongation of Sylva’s tenure some years ago, the MIJN alleged that it was not a surprise to the civil society world that “the APC are now jubilating that the controversial jurist was drafted to make Sylva governor through the backdoor.”
The group is also probing why all the five justices on the Appeal Court were drawn from only APC-controlled states.
Egribido averred that it couldn’t have been coincidental that the five justices were selected from only APC states, adding that the skewed selection smacks of suspicion and goes to confirm fears that the justices were on a pre-determined mission and not to deliver justice.
While stressing that it would continue to condemn any act capable of undermining the independence of the judiciary, Egribido advised the President of Court of Appeal to urgently redress this imbalance.
While reiterating its political neutrality, the MIJN believes the skewed selection of the panelists leaves so many unanswered questions.
According to Egribido: “Does it mean that the President of the Court of Appeal is not sensitive to the Nigerian political reality? Or is she saying that there are no competent justices in PDP-controlled states? Even as a non-political group, we are sensitive to the sensitivity of electoral contest and pluralism of Nigeria. Is the Judiciary blind to these realities?’’.
When contacted, Bayelsa State PDP Secretary, Mr. Godspower Keku, calls for calm and prayers for Dickson and PDP.
While stressing that Dickson won the December 5, 2015 and January 9, 2016 governorship elections resoundingly, he said Sylva was rejected by Bayelsans at the polls.
He also believes that Sylva’s petition was built on a sand, adding that “you cannot build something on nothing and expect it to stand”.
Keku, however, said if the APC succeeded in manipulating the appellate court, the PDP and Dickson will approach the Supreme Court for redress.