The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Caucus in the House of Representatives, on Thursday, suggested that Justices Ibrahim Tanko, Rhodes-Vivour, Mary Odili, Sylvester Ngwuta, Olukayode Ariwoola, Musa Mohammed and Kumai Akaahs be appointed to hear and determine the appeal filed by the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, challenging the ruling of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal that upheld the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The lawmakers elected on the platform of the PDP in the lower chamber of the National Assembly accused the leadership of the Supreme Court of trying to subvert the convention of selecting the most senior Justices of the Supreme Court to hear and determine the appeal
According to them, the apex court and the Chief Justice of Nigeria must stick to set precedent and resist the pressure being brought to bear on him to appoint justices who are likely to favour the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) and its presidential candidate, Buhari, in deciding the appeal.
The caucus position was contained in a statement signed by Kingsley Chinda (PDP Caucus Leader), Chukwuma Onyema (deputy leader), Umar Barde (Caucus Whip) and Muraina Ajibola (deputy caucus whip).
The lawmakers said the post of Chief Justices of Nigeria since 1979 has set the precedent of appointing the most senior Justices to hear the presidential election appeal.
The statement added: “The hearing of the appeal on the decision of the Presidential Election Petition filed by Alhaji Abubakar Atiku 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 phony 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 the selection of panel members to Chief Justices; NEVER.
“In 2008 when President Buhari, defeated by the 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, Dahiru 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. Nigerian Judiciary cannot reverse that internationally-accepted practice of stare decisis just to please APC 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.