A United States based Imo State Diaspora group, the Imo Diaspora Coalition for Justice and Democracy (IDCJD) has commended US Congressman Chris Smith for his recent statement expressing concern over the Supreme Court of Nigeria and its independence, ability to safeguard the country’s constitution and democracy.
In a statement, with Professor Eddie Oparaoji and Mr Chijike Ndukwu listed as contacts, the group said “The statement by Congressman Smith is picture perfect and has the right message. The timing also couldn’t have been better. On behalf of the over 6 million citizens of Imo State, we ecstatically applaud the Congressman for his courage to call on the Supreme Court of Nigeria to act to preserve the integrity of our judiciary, sanctity of the ballot and our fledgling democracy.”
The statement by the Congressman reads:
“Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Africa and Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, issued the following statement with regard to the Nigerian Supreme Court’s upcoming reconsideration of its controversial January 14, 2020 ruling which undid the results of an election in Imo State announced by Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission, and placed the fourth place finisher in the Governor’s seat.”
The judgement has triggered a global backlash on the Supreme Court, expressed in forms of street protests, negative commentaries from the media, civil society groups, religious organizations, experts and commentators, across Nigeria and internationally.
Congressman Smith further observed in his statement, that;
“Nearly a year ago both the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria and I sounded the warning that President Muhammadu Buhari’s suspension and removal of the then-Chief Justice and elevation of a handpicked successor threatened judicial independence and also undermined confidence that electoral disputes would be adjudicated fairly. Next week the Supreme Court of Nigeria will reconsider a controversial ruling with respect to the gubernatorial election in Imo State. The eyes of the world are focused on whether the Supreme Court, upon reflection, will impartially adhere to Nigerian constitutional principles of federalism and the separation of power. If it rules with integrity, the Supreme Court can reassert its constitutional role as a firewall against unbridled federal executive power, and help preserve constitutionalism and democracy in Nigeria that is in danger of being undermined.”
It must be recalled that following an initiative by IDCJD, called “Ihedioha Mandate Restoration: Imo Citizens Call to Action, All Hands on Deck”, Nigerians made thousands of calls to some targeted Congressmen and Senators who are members of the Subcommittee on African Affairs. They include Congressman Chris Smith (Ranking Member; R-NJ), Congresswoman Karen Bass (Chair; R-CA), Senators Lindsay Graham (Chair; R-NC), Bob Menendez (Ranking Member; D-NJ) and Chris Coon (D-DE).
Those who participated in this initiative were instructed on the message to deliver. They were to ask the congressman or senator to make a statement that the Supreme Court of Nigeria in reviewing its recent controversial decision, which removed a popularly elected Governor of Imo State and imposed an unelected Governor who was 4th in the Governorship election, must .respect and reflect the wishes and intents of the Imo State electorate, as provided in the constitution, and resist political pressure.