By Alex Enumah in Abuja
Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA),” has called on the National Judicial Council (NJC) to relief Justice Okon Abang of his appointment as a judge of the Federal High Court in order to preserve the integrity of the judiciary.
The call was predicated on the alleged wrongful manner in which the judge was said to have handled some political cases brought before him at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
At a press conference at the weekend in Abuja, the National Coordinator of the group, Emmanuel Onwubiko, alongside the National Director of Media, Miss Zainab Yusuf, declared that the Nigerian human rights community is worried by what they described as the destabilisation and unconstitutional roles of Justice Abang.
“Justice Abang’s presence on the bench constitutes grave threat to constitutional democracy hence our media intervention to call for immediate action to save our judiciary from global opprobrium,” Onwubiko said.
He claimed that if the NJC refused to ease out Justice Abang from the justice sector, “the democracy the country is currently trying to build would be irretrievably imperiled.”
They said: “Justice Abang has through numerous rulings aimed at scuttling multi-party democracy, undermined judicial integrity, he must be shown the way out immediately, otherwise, he may unwittingly take Nigeria to a one-party state, devoid of any form of opposition.
“On behalf of 36 registered Non-governmental organisations, we at HURIWA have already closed a black book we operated in the six geopolitical zones of the country whereby lovers of democracy and human rights endorsed, through their signatures for the Nigerian human rights community, with effect from the 2016 World Human Rights day to officially blacklist Justice Abang, declare him a clear and present danger to civil rule and human rights and to begin a global campaign to compel the relevant judicial authority such as the NJC to dismiss him forthwith from the judiciary to salvage the rapidly waning corporate image of the judicial arm of government
“The monumental cases of indiscretions of Justice Abang are so well known even as several appellate courts have through several well considered judgments lambasted him for standing the law on its head.
“For instance, on August 18, 2016, the Court of Appeal in Abuja came down heavily on Justice Abang over his ruling on June 27, 2016, removing the Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, averring that his judgment was biased and turned the law on its head.
“Recall that the court held that Justice Abang erred in law and occasioned a miscarriage of justice against the governor when he refused to give him fair hearing
“The court further held that the judge pre-judged the matter when he touched on the substantive issues at the preliminary stage without hearing the appellant.”
Apart from his ruling on the Okezie Ikpeazu vs. Samson Ogah case, the group alleged that the judge has granted series of orders that have added to the confusion over the leadership crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
According to HURIWA, Justice Abang’s ruling on the PDP crisis in relation to Ondo State was described as a complete “fraud,” in the estimation of the Court of Appeal which annulled the judgment.
A three-member panel of justices of the Appeal Court, the group said, nullified Abang’s ruling of October 14 which recognised businessman Jimoh Ibrahim as the authentic candidate of the PDP for the November 26, 2016 election and described the June 29 judgment which gave rise to the October 14 ruling, as a gross abuse of Ahmed Makarfi’s right to fair hearing.
They urged journalists to uphold their constitutional role as the conscience of the nation in line with Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution, which provides that, “the press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people.”