Helen Ogunwumiju, one of the five Supreme Court justices set to deliver judgement on allegations of perjury filed against Bola Tinubu, President-elect, on Friday, has come under public scrutiny.
Several social media users have alleged that the judge may have some bias for Tinubu as he is a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), a party one of her sons is an active member of.
An image with pictures of Helen and Moyinolorun, her son, placed side by side, circulated on the internet on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Taiwo Moyinolorun Ogunwumiju recently won a seat in the Ondo State House of Assembly on the platform of the APC as a member representing Ondo West 1.
His twin brother, Kehinde Olamide Ogunwumiju (SAN), is one of the youngest persons to become a SAN in Nigeria, doing so in September 2017, three months to his 36th birthday.
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Now 41, Kehinde argues matters in court as a partner in the Afe Babalola & co law firm, while Taiwo makes laws in his state of origin.
Of what importance then is Moyinolorun’s party affiliation to Friday’s ruling?
ORIGIN OF THE SUIT
Praise Ilemona Isaiah, Paul Isaac Audu and Anongu Moses are three Nigerians who took Tinubu and the federal government to court.
They filed a case against the President of Federal Republic of Nigeria, Bola Tinubu, All Progressives Congress (APC), the Attorney-General of the Federation, Director-General of the Department of State Service (DSS), Inspector General of Police, and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
What they want is for the court to nullify Tinubu’s election as president-elect and not swear him in.
Their demands include:
“A DECLARATION that the deliberate, wilful and false information deposed to by the 2nd defendant in FORM EC9 of the 7th defendant wherein he stated that he is a not a citizen of another country apart from Nigeria, contrary to the fact that he is also a citizen of The Republic of Guinea, is a criminal offense capable of preventing the 2nd defendant from being sworn in as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“AN ORDER of this Honourable Court nullifying the candidacy of the 2nd defendant as fielded by the 3rd defendant as its political party flag bearer for the presidential election of the 25th of February 2023.
“AN ORDER of this Honourable Court restraining the 1st defendant from allowing the swearing in of the 2nd defendant as President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, and directing the 1st defendant to ensure by all the powers within his disposal that the 2nd defendant is not sworn in, into the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for wilfully, deceptively and deliberately misleading the 7th defendant and telling lies on oath.
“AN ORDER of this Honourable Court directing the 4th, 5th and 6th defendants to ensure that the 2nd defendant is detained, and prevented from being sworn in as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, pending the determination of the Presidential election Petition before the Court of Appeal to determine the rightful winner of the 25th February, 2023 election conducted by the 7th defendant.
“AN ORDER of this Honourable Court directing the 3rd defendant to dismiss the 2nd defendant from the party for deliberately telling lies and falsely stating .in the form EC9 of the 7th defendant that he is only a Nigerian citizen contrary to the prevailing and available facts that he possesses citizenship of the Republic of Guinea.
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“AN ORDER of this Honourable Court to the 7th defendant to nullify and disqualify the candidacy of the 2nd defendant for wilfully and knowingly telling lies on oath, to the 7th defendant in the form EC9 of the 7th defendant which is against the sacrosanct condition precedent for being allowed as a candidate to contest the Presidential election of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“AN ORDER of this Honourable Court directing the 2nd defendant to stop holding out himself as the President-elect of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, since he was ineligible and his nomination as the Presidential Candidate of the 3rd defendant a nullity owing to the deliberate false declaration, he made in the form EC9 of the 7th defendant before the Presidential election which held on the 25th of February 2023.
“AN ORDER of this honourable court restraining and barring the 2nd defendant from contesting any other election in the Federal Republic of Nigeria for the next 10 years for deliberately telling lies and give false information on oath, in the form EC9 of the 7th defendant.”
Charged with delivering judgement at the Supreme Court are Justice Iyang Okoro, Justice Amina Augie, Justice Helen Ogunwumiju, Justice Adamu Jauro and Justice Emmanuel Agim.
With worries over Justice Ogunwumiju’s objectivity hotting up, FIJ asked lawyers if calls for her to recuse herself were valid.
In a telephone interview with FIJ, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), a lawyer representing the APC in court, told FIJ he was unable to comment on the matter as he was a party to the case.
Monday Ubani (SAN), former Vice President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), told FIJ that Helen was not compelled by law to recuse herself if there was no perceived bias.
He said the persons challenging Tinubu’s victory could have applied for her to be changed on those grounds, but if they did not, then they had nothing against her being on the panel.
“It is not a matter for public debate,” Ubani told FIJ. “Any of the persons that filed the case, or their lawyers, could have raised it up and filed an application for her to be removed if they had any issue with that, but if they have no problem, then there is nothing in it.”
The court is expected to deliver final judgement on Friday in what could determine whether Monday’s inauguration holds or not.
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