Approximately 500 lawyers rallied at the Court of Appeal in Abuja on Thursday, November 16, protesting what they characterized as an unjustified assault by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on the integrity of the Nigerian judiciary.
The lawyers, led by Sylvanus Okpe, Convener of the Lawyers of Conscience group, expressed their collective dismay over what they termed a “campaign of calumny” against the justices of the Court of Appeal.
Okpe asserted that the actions of the PDP amount to an assault on the judiciary itself, citing a barrage of sponsored criticisms directed at the recent judgment of the Court of Appeal in Plateau State.
Addressing the media, Okpe stated the organisation’s dedication to upholding the rule of law and democracy in Nigeria, urging the justices to consider the implications of the PDP’s actions on the court’s reputation and integrity.
“While it is succinct to state that the Justices of the Court of Appeal delivered a sound judgment in line with the provisions of the law, the diatribe perpetuated by the PDP smacks of mockery and an attempt to ridicule the judiciary,” Okpe declared.
He further said that the PDP had allegedly breached a subsisting court order in a specific suit. Pointing out the potential consequences according to the Electoral Act, Okpe argued that such a violation could render the elections of PDP candidates in the National Assembly null and void for lacking party structure, drawing a parallel with the Supreme Court’s nullification of APC candidates’ elections in Zamfara State in 2019.
Okpe accused the PDP of sacrificing facts in a self-serving quest and launching a serial campaign of calumny against the rulings of the Court of Appeal. He asserted that the party’s ultimate goal appeared to be discrediting the judiciary’s impartiality in Nigeria.
“The reputation and integrity of the appellate court are at stake. The issues canvassed by the PDP lack merit and substance, and as such, the judiciary must not succumb to blackmail to ensure that justice is served.” He said.
The lawyers called on the justices to stand firm in defence of the sanctity of the appellate court, urging a rejection of the PDP’s position regarding the outcome of the judgment that sacked members of the party in the National Assembly for alleged lack of party structure. They emphasized the importance of an independent, strong, respected, and respectable judiciary for the impartial administration of justice in a democratic state.
“Lessons must be learned on the implications of flouting court orders. Contempt of court is an affront to the authority and dignity of the court. A court order must be obeyed until it is set aside on appeal. There is no evidence that the subsisting court order in the conduct of fresh ward congress for the PDP in Plateau state was appealed.
“His Lordship may wish to grant our prayers that the Court of Appeal rejects the position of the PDP in Plateau State with regards to the outcome of the judgement of the Court of Appeal sacking PDP members of the National Assembly for lack of party structure that rendered their eligibility to stand for election null and void,” he declared.