By Tordue Salem – Abuja
A caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the House in Representatives, has suggested the appointment of Justices Ibrahim Tanko, Rhodes-Vivour, Mary Odili, Sylvester Ngwata, Olukayode Ariwoola, Musa Mohammed and Kumai Akaahs to hear and determine the appeal filed by the PDP Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar challenging the judgement of the Presidential Election Petition tribunal declaring President Muhammadu Buhari as the winner of the 2019 Presidential election.
The factional caucus accused the leadership of the Supreme Court of trying to thwart the convention of selecting the most senior Justices of the Supreme Court to hear and determine such matters.
The caucus said that the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of Nigeria must abide by that norm and resist the pressure to appoint justices who he alleged would favour the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its presidential candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari in deciding the appeal.
In a statement signed by Hon. Kingsley Chinda (PDP Caucus Leader), Hon. Chukwuma Onyema(deputy leader), Hon. Umar Barde (Caucus Whip) and Hon. Muraina Ajibola (deputy caucus whip), the PDP caucus said post-Chief Justices of Nigeria since 1979 has set the precedent of appointing the most senior Justices to hear the Presidential election appeal.
The caucus stressed that the first seven senior Justices should be appointed to hear the appeal and listed them to Justices Ibrahim Tanko (CJN), Justice Rhodes Vivour, Justice Mary Odili, Justice Sylvester Ngwata, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, Justice Musa Mohammed and Justice Kumai Akaahs
The statement reads in part: “the hearing of the appeal on the decision of the Presidential Election Petition filed by Alhaji Abubakar Atiku against President Buhari and our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), begins a few weeks at the Supreme Court.
“The practice of selecting Justices to hear the appeal is expected to precede the hearing, going by age-long convention. What isn’t conventional is the present attempt to influence Chief Justice Ibrahim Tanko, going by reports in the media, to subvert the age-long and time-tested practice, precedent and convention of selecting the most senior Justices of the Supreme Court to hear the presidential election appeal.
“Chief Justices of Nigeria through time have never in the selection of the Supreme Court’s Election Petition Appeal Panel surrendered to the phoney dictates of the ruling parties”.
According to the statement “we are proud to state here that never in our great party’s time in power, did it or its personages, dictate the selection of panel members to Chief Justices; NEVER.
“In 2008 when President Buhari, defeated by late President Umaru Yar’Adua, appealed the decision of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, the then Chief Justice, Legbo Kutigi, empanelled Justices Katsina-Alu, Aloma Mukhtar, Dahiru Mustapha, Walter Onnoghen, George Oguntade and Niki Tobi to hear the appeal that year.
“He was never dictated to, nor was any attempt made by our great party to influence CJN Justice Legbo Kutigi, who stuck to a conventional practice that consistently secured the seal of approval of past Chief Justices: CJN Fatai Williams, 1979; CJN George Sowewimo, 1983; and CJN Muhammad Uwais, 2003″. Atiku
The caucus added that “CJN Katsina-Alu also followed CJN Kutigi’s steps in 2011 and kept to the age-long conventional practice. If there is an arm of government that regards precedents and practices as almost sacrosanct, it is the judiciary. Nigerian Judiciary cannot reverse that internationally accepted practice of stare decisis just to please the Buhari government and serve the interest of a select individual or group.
“Selecting the Supreme Court Panel isn’t about witch-pricking-pricking Justices who suck the blood out of justice isn’t about going outside the order of seniority to select Justices, witch-prickers, without independent jurisprudential thoughts and whose singular attribute for selection is that they demonstrate permanent dislike for justice and passion for doing the bidding of power”.
The statement further buttressed that “Selection, shorn of pressure and influence of the government and the present ruling party, is about demonstrating and holding firm to the constitutional powers of the Supreme Court to conduct its own affairs and not succumb to pervasive power and corrosive external influences.
“To sidestep precedents and convention is to provide legitimacy to the ruling party whose stock-in-trade is ridiculing the judiciary. Chief Justice Ibrahim Tanko must Stick to precedents and conventions to preserve the integrity of the courts as the last hope of the common man and of citizens of our great country.
“We are, however, gladdened that on Monday 14th October 2019 through its Director, Press and Information, Dr Festus Akande, the Supreme Court refuted this intent and reassured the Nigerian public that it is out to “Serve the interest of the generality of the Nigerian masses and not select individuals or groups”. We, therefore, pray and hope that the Supreme Court does not allow itself to fall into this gobble trap.
“We wish to state that selection of Justices to hear the appeal of our great party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, against Buhari must be in accordance with the conventional practice admitting only of the selection of the first seven most senior Justices of the Supreme Court: CJN Ibrahim Tanko, Justice Rhodes-Vivour, Justice Mary Odili, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, Justice Musa Muhammad and Justice Kumai Akaahs. NO MORE”.