PDP Reps task CJN on integrity of presidential appeal panel
Insist On Selection Of Justices Based On Seniority
Members of the factional caucus of the opposition peoples democratic party (PDP) in the House of Representatives, yesterday, rose from an emergency meeting calling on the Chief Justice of the Federation (CJN), Ibrahim Tanko to endeavour to protect the integrity of the judiciary.
The Kingsley Chinda led caucus, in a statement made available to The Guardian, urged the CJN not to subvert the age-long practice, precedent and convention of selecting the most senior justices of the supreme court to hear the presidential election appeal filed by the former Vice President and presidential candidate of the PDP in the 2019 poll, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
The caucus, while expressing concern over speculations of moves to subvert the process, admonished the CJN to take a cue from his predecessors, justices Legbo Kutigi, and Katsina Alu, who adhered to laid down rules when President Muhammadu Buhari, then as an opposition candidate between 2007 and 2011, challenged the election of former President Okusegun Obasanjo a and late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in the apex court.
The caucus thereby pushed for selection of seven most senior Justices of the Supreme Court: CIN Ibrahim Tanko, Justice Rhodes-Vivour, justice Mary Odili, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, Justice Musa Muhammad and Justice Kumai Akaahs in line with conventional practices.
The caucus, in the statement jointly signed by Chukwuma Onyema (Deputy Leader), Umar Barde (Whip), Muraina Ajibola (Peputy Whip), buttress their assertions thus: “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 dictates of the ruling parties. We are proud to state here that never in our great party’s time in power, did it or its personages, dictate selection of panel members to Chief Justices.
“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, empaneled Justices Katsina-Alu, Aloma Mukhtar, Dahim Musdapha, 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.
“CJN Katsina-Alu also followed CJN Kutigi’s steps in 2011 and kept to the age-long conventional practice. If there is any arm of government that regards precedents and practices as almost sacrosanct, it is the judiciary.
“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 therefore, pray and hope that the Supreme Court does not allow itself to fall into this gobble trap.”
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