…Vows to reject any move to handpick panel members
By Joseph Erunke
As President Muhammad Buhari and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, both candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the 2019 president election shift their battle to the Supreme Court,the Coalition of United Political Parties, CUPP, has alleged of plans in some quarters to jettison seniority in the selection of panel justices.
The CUPP, at a press conference, Thursday, in Abuja,claimed the ruling APC led federal government was mounting undue pressure on the Chief Justice of the Federation and the “entire court to accept a handpicked panel and jettison the age-long tradition of the court of selecting the most senior justices of the Supreme Court to sit on the panel.”
Spokesman of the opposition coalition, Ikenga Ugochinyere, who addressed the media, said the coalition would not accept such action.
“We have it on good authority that the All Progressive Congress APC led Federal govt has been mounting undue pressure on the Chief Justice of the Federation and indeed the entire court to accept a handpicked panel and jettison the age-long tradition of the Court of selecting the most senior justices of the Supreme Court to sit on the panel,” it claimed.
The text of the briefing read thus:”As you are already aware the opposition consensus candidate Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has approached the Supreme Court of Nigeria to appeal the controversial and unpopular judgment of the Court of Appeal which dismissed his Petition.
“By the provisions of the 4th alteration of the 1999 constitution as amended, the Supreme Court of Nigeria has 60 days from the date of the filing of the Notice of Appeal. These processes have kick started and everyone is awaiting the composition of the names of the 7 man panel by the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“The disquiet and bad blood caused by the APC in the Supreme Court now is a clear desecration of the highest temple of justice in the land.
“We have it on good authority that the All Progressive Congress APC led Federal govt has been mounting undue pressure on the Chief Justice of the Federation and indeed the entire court to accept a handpicked panel and jettison the age-long tradition of the Court of selecting the most senior justices of the Supreme Court to sit on the panel.
“The Opposition and Most Nigerians will not accept a handpicked panel neither will the pronouncement of such panel command the requite respect and confidence of the people of Nigeria and we in the Opposition.
“The Supreme Court is for the people the last hope of the judiciary. The actions of the Supreme Court must inspire national confidence and deliver not just judgment but justice and that path to justice is not only about the law but about the ordinary man believing that justice has been done. The Supreme Court is Supreme and its words must be for the protection of the society and the people and the law.
“A grave error was done at Appeal Court and the nation is waiting to see how a man who violated the Electoral Act and was supposed to have been disqualified managed to survive at the Appeal Court. That Court failed in both the issues of law and issues of national interest.
“Today corruption has been permeated in the highest levels of the Presidency, today Nigeria is indebted more than ever before, today suffering citizens are being taxed to death, today there is a craze to generate revenue even at the risk of stripping citizens of their minimal purchasing power which has almost lost all its value due to mismanagement by this incompetent administration. Today public funds are spent without appropriation and proper accountability.
” Today they have increased VAT to 7.2%. Today they tax citizens to deposit their money in banks; today they tax citizens for withdrawal of their money.
“Today they ask citizens to pay stamp duty and the money is not accounted for. Today citizens pay increased electricity tariff with no reciprocal electricity supply.
“Today they have borrowed money both locally and internationally more than any other government in our history yet they cannot pay workers minimum wage. Beyond these obnoxious policies, citizens are daily denied their basic right to freedom of expression. The Government has failed in its basic duty which is protection of lives and property. Today all parts of the country are insecure with bandits and terrorist raping and destroying.
“The economy is bad because the leader has no capacity to govern and has surrendered his functions to unelected people. Citizens are charged to Court for terrorism for merely speaking out against this misrule, while his supporters are asking for 3rd term and working assiduously to achieve such unconstitutional ambition.
“This administration failed on electoral reform, it failed on security, it failed on economy, it failed on the fight against corruption, it has failed to make any worthy investment in the health sector, it has failed to record any success in education, foreign investments is lower than it used to be and Nigeria is daily sinking deeper into the poverty gully and our once growing economy is now the centre of poverty in the world. The judiciary is daily being emasculated. Judges are petitioned against if they rule against Government interest, this attack on judges was carried out to silence the judiciary and use it as clearing house. Disobedience to lawful orders of court by the government is now the order of the day.”
It, however, said all hope was not lost if the PDP candidate wins at the Supreme Court.
“The way out is in the hands of the Supreme Court justices who will be called upon to rule in the interest of the law, National Interest, unification and enthronement of a competent leadership and that journey starts with the composition of the membership of the presidential election appeal panel that will hear Atiku’s Appeal at the Supreme court,” it said.
It added: “We are back on this matter because we have received reinforced intelligence that the age long tradition of composition of a panel made of up of experienced justices based on their seniority is about to be breached. This complaint is a painful road we would have avoided for the image of the Supreme Court but knowing the desperation of the people and their hate for decency and order we cannot keep quiet knowing they regard the people with disdain.
“We hereby alert the nation once again and in a loud voice that there is still ongoing plot engineered and being pushed by allies of the ruling APC who know that it will be difficult if not impossible in law for the president to escape a fair and neutral adjudication of the Appeal without consequences and hence the desperation to breach the age long tradition of most senior justices sitting in the appeal at the Supreme Court.
” Let us say it here, all the justices of the Supreme Court are eminently qualified but in view of the trying times where lawlessness and breach of procedure are now common and with rampaging power mongers willing to capture all state institutions of governance in a bid to sustain a tainted presidential mandate, the opposition rejects and will not support any move to tamper with the age long order of seniority which have been in practice since 1979 till date and used in selecting most senior justices of supreme court who sits on election dispute panels at the supreme court.
“We say these knowing that we were all here when we screamed few days to the election about the military styled forceful removal of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria and installation of another against express orders of Court that restrained him and that it was for a day like this. The Buhari APC knew that it will rig the election and worked ahead to attempt to destabilize and intimidate our courts.
“The Opposition wants these age long tradition of composing presidential election dispute panel in order of seniority maintained because we do not trust the altering of the seniority list under a Buhari led APC Federal Government. They and some institutions have not earned our trust in this dispute to reclaim our mandate. The method the APC government used in clamping down on the judiciary and the circumstance surrounding the installation of a new CJN is the reason our confidence level is low and the only way is to allow this tradition to help instil confidence on all parties and ensure not only the delivery of judgment but also the delivery of Justice and for the people to accept and feel that justice has been done. A handpicked panel at this tensed period will rob the Supreme Court the confidence, impartiality and trust of the citizens to hear this matter.
“All over the world and even in Africa it is always the most senior justices that handle such matters. Even Article 3 and Article 6 of the International Criminal Justice Statute/rule, expressly provides for seniority in handling matters. Also at the Nigerian bar and bench, seniority is highly recognized and respected.
“From 1979 to the return to democracy in 1999, the journey has been about seniority of justices when composing Presidential election appeal panel at the Supreme Court, from Kenya to Ghana to many parts of Europe it is about seniority. In the recent Kenyan Presidential election Petition, The Kenyan Chief Justice David Maraga along with his deputy Lady Justice Philomena Mbete Mwilu led other eminent senior justices of the Kenyan Supreme Court and despite all shenanigans/manipulation to force him out of office for failing to compose a handpicked panel, he still presided and did justice in the election dispute.
“The question we will ask those pushing for handpicking is why now? Is there something they are afraid of? Why the agitation by the APC? Why the pressure to alter the tradition and handpick justices? Why? Why? Why?
“The Supreme Court winner will require the support of the citizens to govern and that support can only be gotten if the judgment is seen to have been delivered fairly and not judgment that its outcome will be seen to have been designed from beginning to achieve the desired result. That will still leave the nation in a sour post-election mood. This is the reason why we keep shouting; APC removes politics from the Supreme Court! The list of the entire justices of the Supreme Court showing also the most senior justices are hereby reproduced for those who are in doubt.”