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Tunisia’s President Saied sacks 57 judges, accuses them of corruption

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Tunisia’s President Kais Saied has sacked 57 high court judges after publicly accusing them of corruption and protecting terrorists, in a move his opponents say is to pave the way for him to take control of the North African country’s judiciary.

In a televised address on Wednesday, Saied said he had “given opportunity after opportunity and warning after warning to the judiciary to purify itself” but that the judiciary failed to live up to what was expected of them.

Among those sacked according to an official government gazette, was Youssef Bouzaker, the former head of the Supreme Judicial Council whose members were replaced early this year as Saied moved to take control of the judiciary.

Before dissolving the Judicial Council, the body had acted as the main guarantor of Tunisia’s judicial independence since the 2011 revolution that introduced democracy and Saied’s changes prompted accusations he was interfering in the judicial process.

In sweeping moves meant to perpetuate himself in power since last year, President Saied has suspended the Tunisian parliament, fired the Prime Minister and seized control of the election body.

Late last year, Saied also dismissed the government and seized executive power in a move his opponents called a coup, before setting aside the 2014 constitution to rule by decree and dismissing the elected parliament.

He has continued to justify his actions by saying his moves were needed to save Tunisia from crisis and his intervention initially appeared to have widespread public support after years of economic stagnation, political paralysis and corruption.

Saied, who has also replaced the independent electoral Commission with members he personally picked with himself as the head of the Commission, has also said he will introduce a new constitution this month which will be put to a referendum in July.

However, almost all of Tunisia’s political parties have rejected the move along with the powerful UGTT labour union, saying that public sector workers would go on a nationwide strike on June 16, to protest against Saied’s political moves to entrench himself as a dictator amidst high cost of living and loss of jobs.

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What next as Nigeria’s Supreme Court knocks out President Buhari’s suit challenging electoral act?

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Nigeria’s highest court, the Supreme Court on Friday knocked out a suit filed by President Muhammad Buhari and his attorney-General, Abubakar Malami, to challenge the controversial section 84(12) of the new assented Electoral Act.

The ruling, which was unanimously struck out the suit on the ground of being an abuse of court process, was delivered by a bench led by Musa Dattijo-Muhammad.

Other members of the bench who consented to the lead judgement are Dattijo-Muhammad, John Okoro, Amina Augie, Lawal Garba and Ibrahim Saulawa.

Aokmaye Agim, who delivered the lead judgement, held that Mr Buhari, having earlier assented to section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act 2022, cannot turn around to approach the court to strike it down.

Mr Agim said, “This suit cannot be entertained by this court under section 1(1) (a) of the Additional Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court Act. “

“There is no provision in the constitution that vests the president the power to challenge the constitutionality or desirability of a legislation after he has assented or denied his assent. In this case, the president gave his assent,” Mr Agim ruled.

The Nigerian President in March signed the reworked Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2022 after many years of back and forth. The new law among other provisions empowers the Nigerian Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deploy technological solutions for elections in the country.

President Buhari in a letter to the National Assembly later asked the federal lawmakers to amend the Act, by deleting Section 84 (12), which, according to him, constitutes a “defect” that is in conflict with extant Constitutional provisions.

The clause reads, “No political appointee at any level shall be a voting delegate or be voted for at the Convention or Congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election.”

The Assembly however rejected President Buhari’s request to amend the provision.

Justice Agim added that “The president has no power to request or compel the national assembly to amend any part of the Act of the National Assembly in which he has participated in its making.”

The effect of the new law has seen a number president Buhari’s appointees resign particularly during the height of the ruling party, the All-Progressive Congress primary elections. Notably amongst them is the former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi  who had to resign to pursue his presidential ambition.

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Ex-Tunisian PM Jebali arrested on allegations of money laundering

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Former Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, who is also senior member of the opposition Ennahdha Party, was on Friday, arrested by the police on allegations of money laundering, according to his lawyer, Mokhtar Jemai said in a statement.

The statement said police in the city of Sousse also seized the phones of Jebali and his wife, before taking him to an unknown location.

The arrest of Jebali has raised further concerns within the ranks of the opposition over the human rights situation in Tunisia since President Kais Saied took unpopular actions including dissolving the parliament last July, suspending the electoral commission, dissolved the Supreme Juducial Council and sacked 57 judges this month, which his opponents have called a coup meant to entrench a one-man rule in the country.

Jebali’s defence team have said they have been able to meet with him at the detention centre where he is being held.

“Jebali told us he will not answer the investigators’ questions and he entered into a hunger strike as the issue has a political motivation and nothing to do with money laundering,” Jemai said.

Jebali who was Tunisian Prime Minister in 2012 but resigned in 2013 following a political crisis, is not the first opposition figure to be arrested in what has been seen as a clampdown on opposition leaders by President Saied.

Earlier this year, Noureddine Bhiri, the vice president of Ennahdha was arrested and detained for more than two months before he was released without any charges being brought.

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