As to the demand of the Petitioner and the justification for same, it was stated in paragraph 10, inter alia, thus: “10. This, our client will no longer fold his arms to be robbed of the mandate of his people by the Court on arbitrariness and undue influence manifested by the apparent interest shown by the Hon. President of the Court of Appeal.
It happened the previous time and must not be allowed to happen again as our client’s right to fair hearing as enshrined under section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.
Now therefore, due to evidence of bias which is imminent, our client respectfully urge your Lordship to use your good office to ensure that justice is done by causing the Hon. President of the Court of Appeal to judiciously exercise his powers to disband and reconstitute a fresh and impartial panel.”
This petition made no reference to any “leakage of the judgment” of the Court of Appeal of the Sokoto Gubernatorial Election Appeal Panel.
3.04.2 Petition No. 2 by Yahaya Mahmood, Esq. of Arewa Chambers
The second petition is by Arewa Chambers and is signed by Yahaya Mahmood, Esq. who wrote as Solicitor for the INEC. In paragraphs 10 and 11, Mr. Mahmood stated thus:
”10. On his assumption of office, ISA AYO SALAMI PCA, the new President constituted a panel for the Sokoto Appeal. Senator Umar Dahiru and myself met him to find out if he was aware of why the decision to await the Supreme Court judgment was taken by his predecessor to wit, TO AVOID JUDUCIAL ANARCHY. He said he was aware.
11. Just to find out motives, if any, we met him again and tried to convince him why his decision was not appropriate. We had a 2½ hour discussion and his Lordship was only trying to explain to us that Court of Appeal Kaduna Division judgment, subject of the whole controversy, was wrong.
We were apprehensive for 2 reasons. Why he ignored the decision of his predecessors, and why he was so forceful in his argument. We left him convinced that he has more than official interest in the matter. All we wanted was some conviction that there was no foul play.”
After referring to various matters and stating clearly in paragraph 15 that he did not want to make a formal complaint to NJC, Mr. Mahmood concluded in paragraph 16 as follows:
“16. We wish he did not create any bad impression. We wish the Panel did not create any wrong impression. We wish the withdrawal of the appeal before the Supreme Court did not create the impression that they have advance knowledge of the judgment to be hurriedly delivered on the 23rd of February, 2010.
We wish the Motion on Notice filed on Thursday was taken seriously by the Panel and since time was not against them, exercised their discretion judiciously by giving a date for the Motion instead of having a conference in Abuja”.
Again, Mr. Mahmood made no reference to any judgment leakage in his petition.
3.04.3 Committee’s Finding on allegation of judgment leak in both petitions dated 15/2/2010
The Committee having carefully considered the foregoing materials finds as a fact that:
(i) neither Mr. Agu in his petition nor Mr. Yahaya Mahmood in his petition each dated 15/2/10, made any allegation that the judgment of the Court of Appeal yet to be delivered in the Sokoto Gubernatorial Election Petition leaked.
(ii) the two petitions relied on by the CJN as alleging leakage of the judgment of the Court of Appeal Election Panel in Sokoto did not support as no allegation of judgment leakage was made in the two petitions.
Thus, there does not appear to be any fact and or law upon which the CJN predicated his directive that the PCA disbands the Sokoto Gubernatorial Appeal Panel either on the two petitions or any purported allegation of judgment leak.
(iii) There was no leakage of any such judgment and neither Agu nor Mahmood one made any allegation of judgment leakage.
3.04.4 Having further examined the affidavit of the CJN as set out in paragraph 3.02 of this report, the affidavit of the PCA set out at paragraph 3.03 of this report and the contents of the two petitions attached to the CJN’s query to the PCA, the Committee finds as a matter of fact that:
(a) Petition No. 1 by Governor Wamakko’s Counsel, Alfred N. Agu, Esq. and Petition No. 2 by INEC’s Counsel, Yahaya Mahmood, Esq. did not appear to have allege that the judgment of the Sokoto Gubernatorial Election Appeal Panel of the Court of Appeal had leaked.
(b) At the time the PCA met the CJN on his invitation on the 8th February, 2010, the two petitions were not yet in existence.
(c) No one petitioned and Counsel did not appear to have made any allegation of leakage of judgment against the PCA or any Justices of the Court of Appeal on the Sokoto Election Appeal Panel in which the CJN purported to act when he directed in his letter of 18/2/2010 and 19/2/2010 that further action in the appeal in Sokoto be put on hold.
(d) The CJN knew that the two petitions each dated 15/2/10 were not in existence on 8/2/10 when he invited and met with the PCA in his office on 8/2/10 when he directed the PCA to disband the Sokoto Election Appeal Panel.
(e) The CJN knew that the two petitions each dated 15/2/10 did not contain any allegation that any judgment of the Court of appeal in respect of the Sokoto Gubernatorial Election Appeal had leaked.
(f) The CJN cannot be presumed not to have read the two petitions he forwarded to the PCA and members of the Panel of Justices on the Sokoto appeal and directing further action on the appeal to be put on hold.
(g) The admission of the CJN that he directed the PCA to disband the Sokoto Appeal Panel on the basis of an alleged leakage of the judgment of the Sokoto Court of Appeal which allegation did not appear to have been contained in the two petitions the CJN relied on appears to be an interference with the proceedings of the Court of Appeal, Sokoto.
3.04.5 Accordingly, the Committee accepts as true and correct, the depositions of the PCA to wit:
(4) That with reference to paragraph 7(i) to xix of the said affidavit, I state as follows:
(iii) That to my knowledge, there was no allegation of judgment leakage and no judgment, whether actual or leaked was shown to me by the Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria.
iv) That with particular reference to the deposition in paragraph 7(viii) of the aforesaid affidavit of Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria, I did not admit (to the Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria) that the judgment in the Sokoto State Gubernatorial Appeal had leaked.
3.04.6 The CJN’s depositions in his sworn affidavit of 7/3/2011 –
“7(i) That I did not at any time whatsoever interfere in any form or manner with the Sokoto State Gubernatorial Election Petition Appeal.” appears to be in conflict with the directive contained in the CJNs’ letter of the 18th and the 19th of February, 2010, that:
“You are to ensure that further action on the appeal is put on hold…”
3.04.7 Having thoroughly examined the contents of the two petitions attached to the CJN’s query to the PCA, the Committee is satisfied that:
(a) there are no allegations of judgment leaks in any of the two petitions attached to the CJN’s query to the PCA.
(b) the CJN’s request that the PCA disband the Sokoto Court of Appeal Panel on the Gubernatorial Election Appeal had no basis in fact or in law.
(c) the CJN’s action in respect of the Sokoto Election Appeal amounts to interference.
(d) the petitions relied on by the CJN each dated 15/2/10, could not possibly have been available and to have been shown to the PCA on 8/2/2010 when he met the CJN in the CJN’s office.
(e) if the Hon. CJN had other information that the judgment of the Sokoto Court of Appeal had leaked, that other information did not appear to have emanated from the two petitions attached to his query to the PCA dated 18/2/10.
(f) it is the refusal of the PCA to accept the CJN’s said requests to disband the panel demands that finally erupted into the open face-off between the CJN and the PCA, a development which has gravely tarnished the image and reputation of the Nigerian Judiciary and the legal profession as a whole.
3.05 CJN’s duty to Protect Judicial Officers against frivolous and or malicious accusations
By letter Ref. No. NJC/CA/DM/IV/44 dated 18th February, 2010, the CJN forwarded to the PCA, two petitions both dated 15/2/10 written by Solicitor for Governor Wamakko of Sokoto State and the Solicitor for INEC. In the last paragraph of the letter, the CJN directed:
“that further action on the appeals be put on hold pending the determination of the “serious allegations leveled against you and the justices on the Panel.”
The question is what are these “serious allegations” against the PCA in the two petitions?
3.05.1 The content of Mr. Agu’s petition is quite clear to the Committee. In paragraph 1, petitioner expressed his apprehension about an imminent miscarriage of justice that may occur if judicial discretion is exercised in a manner that will over-ride or suppress justice.
The only paragraphs of the numbered petition in which the PCA is referred to, are paragraphs 7, 9 & 10 wherein the petitioner stated as follows:
“7. In the appeal before the Court of Appeal, Sokoto Division which is the subject of this petition, a panel was constituted by the Honourable President of the Court of Appeal to hear the appeal which clearly is predicated on clear manifestation of the Hon. President to make the panel to review or set aside the earlier judgment of the Court of Appeal, Kaduna on the previous Governorship election for Sokoto State.
This tendency was manifested on several occasions when the Hon. President had told some individuals that the earlier judgment of the Court of Appeal, Kaduna was wrong and with greatest respect, we wish to state that we take strong objection to that opinion, needless to say no person or authority have the power to alter judicial determination of a matter by COMPETENT Court and details could be given of individuals that he had spoken to if so required, this is in addition to summoning the panel to his office to have a conference twice in Abuja which is a clear manifestation of an administrative interference in judicial matters.
9. Our client having suffered a similar injustice on other grounds during the previous appeal where an interested party, the wife of the Democratic Peoples Party’s Gubernatorial candidate for Gombe State in the 14th April, 2007 elections presided over the appeal panel that gave judgment on the 11th of April, 2008.
Now again, similar thing is about to occur as the Hon. President of the Court of Appeal did not exercise his discretion judiciously in the composition of the panel for appointing yet another justice who is married to an influential politician on the panel.