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OPINION

The implications of proposed U.S. visa restrictions on Nigeria

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Presidents Buhari and Trump

Should the United States slam a visa restriction on Nigeria as being currently speculated, its attendant consequences will undoubtedly be enormous. Already, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen are facing U.S. travel ban, an action U.S President Donald Trump explained, in 2017, as safeguarding America and its citizens from terrorism.

Aside Nigeria, the coming ban will have Eritrea, Tanzania, Belarus, Sudan, Myanmar, and Kyrgyzstan. According to foreign media reports, the travel ban will only apply to specific targets including government officials and to certain visa types.

In spite of this, such policy against Africa’s most populous country and, ironically, a strategic trading US partner clearly indicts the current administration. Before now, the US had expressed its displeasure with the administration’s poor human rights records and penchant to trample the Rule of Law. Definitely, this informed Nigeria’s designation by the US, recently, as a country promoting religious discrimination. It is noteworthy that the US statement announcing the depiction had cited the killing of members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria’s (Shi’a) and continued incarceration of its leader, Ibraheem El Zakzaky, despite court bail.

Beside being bad optics for Nigeria internationally, the travel ban will equally have telling effects on the country’s precarious economy and flow of Foreign Direct Investment, FDI, from the US. The aftermath of the proposed travel ban, certainly, will impose quite rigorous and exorbitant expenses on visa processing, such that it becomes frustrating to foreign and local investors. Since international trade largely requires that personal contacts be established at some point between trading partners or investors, hardship in securing non-immigrant visa will adversely affect trade negotiations and investment. Combined with the reality of Nigeria being a monolithic economy and consumption-driven, investment and accompanying job creation will take a reverse.

As statistics have shown , U.S and Nigeria are strategic trading partners. In 2018, US goods and services trade with Nigeria was estimated to be $11.3 billion, comprising export goods ($2.7 billion) and import goods ($5.6 billion).

Trade in services for 2018 totaled $3.0 billion, comprising services exports ($2.4 billion) and services imports ($531million).

On humanitarian aid, the US, like other development partners, has been involved in various developmental projects in Nigeria. These include the fight against HIV/AIDS, education, peace and security, health, and military assistance. In the same vein, the United States Agency for International Development, USAID, has splurged $308.9 million in assistance to Nigeria in the recent years, while US Military Security Assistance gulped $133million; Population, Refugees, and Migration, $39.72 million; Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance, $31million; Education, $25million; Law Enforcement, $6.5million; Centre for Disease Control (immunization and Health Protection) $18.6million, e.t.c

Based on this analysis, US travel ban is clearly bad for Nigeria.

It is therefore imperative for the Nigerian government to take proactive measures by launching serious diplomatic interventions, while exploring ways of improving on its counter-terrorism efforts in line with demands of its developing partners.

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OPINION

Bayelsa: My thoughts on Supreme Court judgement in PDP, Sen. Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo’s case, By Honesty Eguridu, ESQ

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Honesty Eguridu, ESQ

No one saw it coming! I can take a bet for it that not even Senator Duoye Diri and the PDP who instituted the case and got judgment in their favour at the Federal High Court in November 2019, saw it coming.

Just as the dust caused by the decision of the Supreme Court in Imo State is yet to settle, the Apex Court dished out another steaming decision and I dare say the dust created by this recent decision is more intense than that of Imo State. As the news of the decision filtered in, lawyers and “laymen” alike were thrown into panic.

This Supreme Court now seems to specialize in upsetting the status quo in unprecedented manner! A lot of people with various interests couldn’t hold back their emotions; the ensuing confusion knows no bound and it’s still raging … “How can the Supreme Court punish one man for the sins of another man?

A lawyer queried “if Faleke could not benefit from his joint ticket with Audu in the Kogi State 2015 governorship election, why then is the issue of Deputy Governor’s qualification affecting David Lyon now? Did the Deputy Governor get the party’s nomination? I must state here that though some of these questions were raised by learned minds, it must be pointed out that these learned minds must have been beclouded by sentiments and deep rooted bias caused by the disappointment in the sudden turn of events in Bayelsa State.

Members of the PDP who were berating the Supreme Court a few weeks ago are suddenly full of praises for the Apex Court and it is now the turn of the APC to lament and call for a review of the judgment. Typical of the chameleonic tendencies of our political elites. One thing is however sure, by this judgment, the Supreme Court has asserted its independence and impartiality in the Nigerian polity. Like the Lady Justice statue with a blindfold, a set of scales and a sword, which is a personification of justice as being blind to the personality of whoever comes before it for a redress and depicts the impartiality and objectivity of the law in not allowing extraneous factors, such as politics, wealth or fame, influence its decisions.

The Supreme Court has shown that it can dispense justice by being impartial and weighs the evidence presented before the court accurately on either sides of the scales and with the right hand the heavy sword is wielded with strength, swiftness and precision to balance the skewed scale in order to right the wrong complained of and return the scales to their natural state of harmony and evenness.

The double-edged blade of the sword of Lady Justice signifies that justice can rule against either of the parties once the evidence has been measured on the basis of comparison on either sides of the scale. That is the essence of justice; achieving a remarkable feat of balance! That is what the Supreme Court has been able to achieve here.

The case was a pre-election matter instituted by means of an Originating Summons at the Federal High Court by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Douye Diri and Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo as first, second and third Applicants respectively. The Defendants to the suit were Senator Biobarakuma Degi- Eremienyo (Deputy Governorship Candidate of the APC), Mr. Lyon David Pereworimin, (Governorship candidate of the APC), All Progressive Congress (APC) and Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) sued as first, second, third and fourth Respondents respectively. Simply put, the case of the PDP and its aspirants was that the particulars and information of the Deputy Governorship candidate supplied by the APC to INEC in the INEC Form CF001 were false.

They therefore prayed the court to invoke the provisions of section 31(6) of the Electoral Act to disqualify the Deputy Governorship candidate of the APC and by extension the Governorship candidate from contesting the election on the basis that the deputy governorship candidate had given false information by supplying multiple names to INEC.

The documents presented by the PDP and its candidates disclosed that the APC Deputy Governorship candidate, who is currently a Senator representing Bayelsa East Senatorial District at the National Assembly, bore different names in each of his primary school, secondary school and university degree certificates.

The case was contested at the High Court on the basis of the documents presented before the court. Since it was a suit initiated by Originating Summons, it was an invitation on the court to interpret the documents presented before it and apply the provisions of the law accordingly.

There was therefore no room for oral evidence as the documents speak for themselves. On 12th November, 2019, the Federal High Court delivered judgment in favour of the PDP and disqualified the candidates of the APC from contesting the election on the ground of false information supplied by the APC Deputy Governorship candidate. The APC and its candidates appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal upturned the decision of the Federal High court in a judgment delivered on 23rd December, 2019.

In setting aside the decision of the Federal High Court, the Court of Appeal held that the Federal High Court ought to have allowed the parties to call oral evidence to resolve some conflicts in the affidavit evidences before the court. The Court of Appeal also held that the case does not disclose any reasonable cause of action and that the allegation that the APC Deputy Governorship candidate supplied false information to INEC was an allegation of crime which ought to be proved beyond reasonable doubt as required in criminal prosecution.

The PDP and its candidates then appealed to the Supreme Court against the decision of the Court of Appeal. In arriving at its decision, the Supreme Court considered the provisions of section 31(6) of the Electoral Act and Section 182(1)(j) of the Constitution which are reproduced below:

“31. (1) Every political party shall not later than 60 days before the date appointed for a general election under the provisions of this Act, submit to the Commission in the prescribed forms the list of the candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections.

(2) The list or information submitted by each candidate shall be accompanied by an Affidavit sworn to by the candidate at the High Court of a State, indicating that he has fulfilled all the constitutional requirements for election into that office.

(3) The Commission shall, within 7 days of the receipt of the personal particulars of the candidate, publish same in the constituency where the candidate intends to contest the election.

(4) A person may apply to the Commission for a copy of nomination form, affidavit and any other document submitted by a candidate at an election and the Commission shall, upon payment of a prescribed fee, issue such person with a certified copy of the documents within 14 days.

(5) A person who has reasonable grounds to believe that any information given by a candidate in the affidavit or any document submitted by that candidate is false may file a suit at the High Court of a State or Federal High Court against such person seeking a declaration that the information contained in the affidavit is false.

(6) If the Court determines that any of the information contained in the affidavit or any document submitted by that candidate is false, the Court shall issue an order disqualifying the candidate from contesting the election”

Section 182 (1)(j) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) provide thus:

“182 (1) No person shall be qualified for election to the office of Governor of a State if –
………………….
(j) he has presented a forged certificate to the independent National Electoral Commission”

In a well-considered judgment, the Supreme Court set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal of 23rd December, 2019 and restored the judgment of the Federal High Court of 12th November 2019. The Supreme Court held that the Federal High Court was right to have decided the case on the basis of the documentary evidence and affidavits before it as there was no conflict in the affidavits of parties. The court also held that both the APC and Mr. David Lyon admitted in their affidavits that the documents brought before the court were submitted by the APC Deputy Governorship candidate and that the multiple names in the documents belonged to him. So clearly there were no conflicts.

The Supreme Court also took out time to analyze the documents and the multiple names of the APC Deputy Governorship candidate, Senator Biobarakuma Degi- Eremienyo as contained in the documents supplied by him to INEC. His name was written as Degi Biobara in his primary school certificate. His WEAC/GCE certificate is bearing Adegi Biobakuma (not Biobarakuma) while his university degree certificate bears Degi Biobarakuma. His MBA certificate has Degi Biobarakuma Wanagha as the name of the same person.

As the Deputy Governor-Elect he is bearing Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo. Space will not permit us here to analyze the different variants of the multiple names contained in the documents of the APC Deputy Governorship candidate submitted to INEC but suffice it to say that the decision of the Federal High was upheld by the Supreme Court to the extent that it is clear before the court that Senator Biobarakuma Degi- Eremienyo supplied multiple names to INEC and he thereby runs foul of the provisions of section 31(6) of the Electoral Act. He was therefore rightly disqualified from contesting the election.

The Supreme court also held that the various affidavits and newspaper publication made by Senator Biobarakuma Degi- Eremienyo to correct and explain the discrepancies in his names in all his certificates is a fraudulent attempt as it is only the issuing authorities of those certificates that can correct any error in them. Now to the big question bugging the mind of most people. How do all these affect Mr. David Lyon and the APC? Why did the court not disqualify only Senator Biobarakuma Degi- Eremienyo and allow Mr. Lyon to simply pick another Deputy governor. The answer to this is contained in section 187(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended):

“187(1) In any election to which the foregoing provisions of this part of this Chapter relate a candidate for the office of Governor of a State shall not be deemed to have been validly nominated for such office unless he nominates another candidate as his associate for his running for the office of Governor, who is to occupy the office of Deputy Governor; and that candidate shall be deemed to have been duly elected to the office of Deputy Governor if the candidate who nominated him is duly elected as Governor in accordance with the said provisions.

(2) The provisions of this Part of this Chapter relating to qualification for election, tenure of office, disqualifications, declaration of assets and liabilities and Oath of Governor shall apply in relation to the office of Deputy Governor as if references to Governor were references to Deputy Governor.”

Succinctly put, the logic of the decision of the Federal High Court affirmed by the Supreme Court is that the Deputy Governorship candidate having been disqualified and the time for submission of names of candidates to INEC by political parties having elapsed, it means that the APC has only a Governorship candidate for the election which automatically disqualified the governorship candidate by the provisions of Section 187(1) of the Constitution. The fact that this is the first time a governorship candidate is being disqualified in Nigeria for the defect in the candidacy of his deputy does not make the decision a bad one. The duty of the court is to interpret the law as it is, and what the Supreme Court has affirmed by this decision is the duty of the Court to interpret the law as it is and apply it to each scenario as the case maybe. The law makers elected by the people made these laws and same has been interpreted and applied as it is! The Supreme Court and the entire judiciary therefore deserve the accolade of all Nigerians.

Honesty Eguridu is a Legal Practitioner based in Lagos. He can be reached via his email address: honestyeguridu@yahoo.com

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OPINION

Man subjects pregnant fiance to genital mutilation before giving birth

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Photo showing genital mutilation....

Man subjects pregnant fiance to genital mutilation before giving birth in Edo State.

At a time in the world when cases are rife of oppressive and discriminatory tendencies against women and the world waking up to sustainable decisive measures against such, it must have come as a rude shock to beautiful Blessing Isoken who hails from Edo State that her own lover, with whom she had gone through a whole lot with would come out to suggest that she performs a female circumcision exercise at the delicate state of pregnancy.

The story did not actually begin there, so let’s go to the beginning.

Blessing is from a home which describes her beginning. She grew up with her parent and the burden of her education became pronounced as she embarked on her university education. It was tough enough to provide for food, shelter and other sundry needs of the family such that taking care of her university demands were out of reach for her father.

This strain was augmented by the fact that Mr. Osagie has known one chief iyamu who was his childhood friend seeing his state that he could not fend for his family needs offered to help him with a loan wherewithal to redeem so many commitment because the situation was becoming worrisome and embarrassing for him and his family.

To Osagie’s rescue came when his childhood wealthy friend with a measure of clout, decided to put a smile on his face by giving him the loan to pay back on a particular date so he can sort out so many things like his daughter Blessing’s who dropped from her university education, to be able to go back.

This must have sounded like good music in the ears of Mr. Osagie who up until that point was at a loss as to how to wriggle himself out of the financial knot. Not knowing that Chief Iyamu however, would only display such benevolence on one condition. And what was the condition? He secretly wants to marrying Blessing when she was through her university education as a befitting compensation for his kindness.

Mr. Osagie not having knowledge of chief Iyamu’s plans fell into his trap by accepting the help thinking it was free for friendship sake. With the help of chief Blessing went back to school and successfully finished her university education.

The chief who had patiently been bidding his time like a lion that was confident it very well had its prey by the jugular, came out and demanded Mr. Osagie pays back the loan by giving out Blessing to him in marriage, which at a point cause alot of disagreement between Osagie and Chief Iyamu

Blessing got furious and disappointed at her father for having accepted the ideal brought by chief becos he does not have money to pay back his loan even without her consent or knowledge.. She had a budding relationship with a guy named Aberiri Mofe, and on relating the whole ordeal to him, they decided to elope, as she would rather die than have her father’s age mate marry her.

She and her boyfriend got visa travelled to Turkey where they found a measure of peace, having left the problem of Chief Iyamu behind, but that peace became transient in the height of their preparation to plan a future for themselves

The boyfriend gave her money to come back to Nigeria to settle the debt chief borrowed the father, getting to Nigeria

The father, Osagie rejected the money that there is nothing he can do that chief has already paid bride price on her and insisted she must marry him , but things went in a
dramatic twist, Blessing found out she was pregnant she quickly called Mofe her boyfriend to give him the good news that she was pregnant Mofe was happy but later open up to her that she had to undergo female circumcision before she gives birth that its a tradition his people values and hold very important.

Apparently in a dilemma, Blessing’s mind was in a turmoil as she tried to brace up with the reality of what Mofe told her, not feeling comfortable with it one bit. Luckily for her, she opened up to a friend about it who dissuaded her in strong terms from such a practice.

Blessing’s friend was only light then in a dark tunnel and as they kept discussing, she sold the idea of her to travel to as an escape to all the rubbish her life seemed mired in, she made up her and ran with the money given to her by her boyfriend to settle the supposed debt collect from chief by the father to Canada where she finally found rest from all the troubles that threatened to swallow her. But as we speak the boyfriend has been causing alot of troubles going to fight the Blessing’s father saying since she did not perform the traditional rite during pregnancy the daughter given birth to in Canada will have to be brought to perform it so he is trying every means to make sure the innocent daughter comes down to Nigeria for the traditional rites.

As we speak Nigeria is a danger zone for both mother and daughter.

So many questions than answers surely this piece would elicit; What choice else did the father have? Isn’t the lasciviousness of Chief Iyamu characteristic of the wealthy few in the midst of the many poor? Why did her fiance stoop so low to the whims of such barbaric tradition?

So so many questions but succinctly it portrays the audacity of desire and the folly of traditional beliefs in the 21st century. It may not be out of place to also say that such is the fate of many young girls in our society today with no voice for them and none to give a helping hand.

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OPINION

Imo: Evaluating the justice of the supreme court judgement in Hope Uzodinma, Emeka Ihedioha case, By Honesty Eguridu, Esq

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Honesty Eguridu

It is perhaps the most celebrated case of the decade and this is not surprising because of the politics of calumny by the Nigerian political class, the blame game by the two major political parties and politicizing of the issues leading to the removal of the former CJN and the appointment of the current CJN.

The social media community and the common man in the street jumped into the fray and everyone became a legal commentator berating the Supreme Court for perverting justice in favour of the ruling political party!

The views of political actors and their sympathizers notwithstanding, the decision of the Supreme Court in the instant case as usual is very sound and unassailable. My opinion on the soundness of the Supreme Court decision is not borne out of the age long maxim that “the Supreme Court is not final because it is infallible; it is infallible because it is final”.

The Supreme Court based its decision on the elementary principle of law that the court and the parties are bound by the issues joined in their pleadings.

Put in a lay man’s language, the court is bound to decide on the cases submitted to it by both parties. Senator Hope Uzodinma was the flag bearer of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the March 8, 2019 governorship election in Imo State. RT. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was declared the winner of the election while Senator Hope Uzodinma took 4th position in the result declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Sen. Hope Uzodinma and the APC filed a petition at the Governorship Election Tribunal against the result of the election. Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, the PDP and INEC were made 1st Respondent, 2nd Respondent and 3rd Respondent respectively to the petition.

The crux of Sen. Uzodinma’s petition was that in the course of collation of results in the Ward, Local Government and State levels INEC incorrectly stated the votes of Rt. Hon. Ihedioha and reduced the votes of Sen. Uzodinma by unlawfully excluding the results from 388 polling units where Sen. Uzodinma scored overwhelmingly majority of the votes cast.

Sen. Uzodinma also stated before the Electoral Tribunal that when the votes from the excluded units are added to the votes of Sen. Uzodinma and Rt. Hon. Ihedioha , Sen. Uzodinma will score 310,153 while Rt. Hon. Ihedioha will score 260,162
Expectedly, Rt. Hon. Ihedioha denied the allegation of exclusion of results made by Sen. Uzodinma and alleged in his pleadings before the tribunal that Sen. Uzodinma has embarked on a scheme to introduce false result sheets into the result of the election.

INEC on its part also denied the allegation made by Sen. Uzodinma and asserted that the results relied upon by Sen. Uzodinma are false. They pleaded that they will tender the genuine results in the course of the trial. In other words INEC never denied that elections did not hold in the 388 polling units.

And as noted by the Supreme Court, this is very crucial! Now after pleadings (which is the preliminary stage of exchanging papers by the parties), it was time to call witnesses to prove the allegations or otherwise averred in their respective pleadings. Sen. Uzodinma called 54 witnesses and tendered Form EC8A – E series which include the statement of results from the 388 polling units and ward collated results.

Rt. Hon. Ihedioha on the other hand called just four witnesses and tendered certified true copies of the Form EC8 series showing the results with which INEC declared him winner of the election. PDP called one witness and INEC did not call any witness nor tender any document!

Recall that Ihedioha and PDP alleged in their pleadings that Sen. Uzodinma forged the results of the 388 polling units. By making this criminal allegation, the law requires them to prove the allegation beyond reasonable doubt, as required in criminal prosecution, but they failed in this duty. As the Supreme Court noted, they never called any iota of evidence to prove this allegation!

INEC on the other hand never called any evidence or tender any document to show that what Uzodinma tendered was fake. In other words, Uzodinma’s evidence on the 388 polling units was uncontroverted! And when evidence is uncontroverted a court of law is bound to act on it!

The question Nigerians should be asking is why did INEC’s legal team not call some of the presiding officers posted to the 388 polling units to testify that the result tendered by Sen. Uzodinma was fake and what stops them from tendering the genuine results as averred in their pleadings?

Nigerians should also ask the legal team of Rt. Hon. Ihedioha why they failed to call their polling agents in most of the 388 polling units to assert that there were no votes in those units or that the results were cancelled whichever be the case!

The Supreme Court clearly acted on the evidence before it! It is obvious the legal team of Rt. Hon. Ihedioha probably did not consider the petition of Sen. Uzodinma to be of a serious threat for obvious reasons.

Sen. Uzodinma was declared a distant fourth position in the election and in the electoral history of Nigeria a candidate with such a low score has never successfully challenged the result of an election let alone declared a winner to displace the number one candidate. But this is a big lesson for all lawyers and litigants never to consider any case as infinitesimal.

Many commentators have criticized the judgment of the Supreme Court for ascribing any probative value to the results of the 388 polling units tendered by a police officer instead of an INEC staff. Rt. Hon. Ihedioha’s legal team obviously based the strength of their defence on the lack of probative value of these result sheets because they were not tendered by an INEC official.

A Deputy Commissioner of police was called by Sen. Uzodinma on the basis of a subpoena duces tecum et testificandum to testify as PW54.

The result sheets of the 388 polling units were tendered in evidence through the police officer. Paragraph 22(c) (i) – (vi) of INEC Guidelines for 2019 General Elections clearly states the steps a presiding officer shall take after the result of a polling unit has been collated thus:
(c) The Presiding officer shall then:
(i) sign, date and stamp the appropriate EC8A forms;
(ii) announce loudly the votes scored by each political party;
(iii) request the candidates or their polling agents where available
at the Polling Unit to countersign;
(iv) refusal of any candidate or polling agent to countersign the appropriate form EC 8(A) series shall not invalidate the result of the Polling Unit;
(v) keep the originals of EC8 series and the first pink copies for the Commission;
(vi) give to the polling agents and the Police, a duplicate copy each of the completed forms

The above provision of the INEC Guidelines for the 2019 Elections clearly makes the case built by the legal team of Rt. Hon Ihedioha to fall like a pack of cards. They have argued that the results tendered were not certified trues copies and that the police officer is not the right person to tender them. These arguments are not tenable in law because the results, as can be seen from the provision of paragraph 2 2(c)(iv) above, are duplicate copies of the originals which require no certification and the police authority is empowered by law to be in custody of the results.

The decision of the Supreme Court also pointed out that this is not the first time the Court is relying on the copies of results in the custody of police officers to decide the validity of election results in Nigeria. The court cited the case of Nnadi Vs Ezike (1999) 10 NWLR (Pt. 622) 228 at 238. The tendering of the results through the police officer was to show that the scores recorded therein were excluded from the forms EC8B (ward collation results). It must also be reiterated that the police officer was summoned by the Election Tribunal to produce and tender the documents!

Lastly I must point out that Paragraph 12(2) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) places a burden of proof on the Respondent to an election petition of this nature. It states that “…. the respondent in his reply shall set out the facts and figures clearly and distinctly disproving the claim of the petitioners”.

And again the legal team of Rt. Hon. Ihedioha failed to discharge that burden of proof. According to them, Sen. Uzodima took 4th position so they don’t have to comply with that provision of the Electoral Act.

Once again the Supreme Court has shown by this landmark decision that it is indeed the last hope of the common man. What Nigerians and those having one interest or the other regarding this judgment should note is that the jurisprudence of justice dictates that there are three viewpoints of justice; justice from the viewpoint of the claimant, justice from the viewpoint of the defendant and justice from the viewpoint of the court.

But in all these viewpoints the substantive justice is the justice from the viewpoint of the objective man who is unbiased and having no emotional or sentimental attachment to the case. That justice from the viewpoint of the objective man is what the court is enjoined to dispense at all times and that is the kind of justice the Supreme Court has dispensed in this case.

It is obvious that most people berating the Supreme Court for this judgment are doing so without the right information. This article is intended to educate and correct the perspective of those with objective mindset.

Honesty Eguridu is a Legal Practitioner based in Lagos. He can be reached via his email address: honestyeguridu@yahoo.com

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