Atiku’s appeal: APC, PDP fight over Supreme Court justices

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) on Friday attacked the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for alleging that it is seeking to influence the selection of Supreme Court justices that will decide the election case between President Muhammadu Buhari and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

The PDP caucus in the House of Representatives had, on Thursday alleged that there were moves by the APC to get the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mohammed Tanko to sideline the most senior justices of the Supreme Court in the expected election petition panel.

The PDP caucuses claimed that since 1979, seniority had been the sole criteria in determing membership of presidential election appeal panels at the apex court. It said Justice Tanko was being pressed by the APC to abandon that convention.

But the APC reacted on Friday describint the PDP as irresponsible.

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National publicity secretary of the APC,  Mallam Lanre Isa-Onilu said the claim by the PDP House of Representatives caucus that the ruling party was plotting to influence composition of justices for the appeal filed before the apex court by the PDP presidential candidate,  Atiku Abubakar was unfounded.

Onilu in his response told the Saturday Tribune that the alarm raised by the main opposition party had since vindicated its stance that the PDP was irresponsible.

He said:”We do not want to be drawn into engaging PDP in their usual shenanigans. We have just raised an alarm that our democracy lacks responsible opposition. We thought by now the main concern of every lawmaker would be to focus on the national budget. We want to be engaged on the issues of governance. That is what touches on the interests of ordinary Nigerians. That’s the focus of APC administration.”

The PDP caucus in the House of Representatives, on Thursday, raised the alarm over the alleged plot by the APC to influence the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko in the selection of justices to hear the presidential election appeal.

In a statement jointly signed by the caucus leader, Hon Kingsley Chinda, deputy caucus leader, Hon Chukwuma Onyema, caucus whip, Hon Umar Barde and deputy caucus whip, Hon Muraina Ajibola, the caucus declared that throughout the 16 years of PDP’s rule, it never at any time dictated the selection of panel members to the Chief Justices.

Consequently, the caucus insisted that selection of justices to hear the pending appeal filed by the PDP Presidential Candidate must be in the order of seniority in line with the tradition of the Apex Court in the interest of justice.

Access to the Caucus, “we wish to state that selection of justices to hear the appeal of our great party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar must be in accordance with the conventional practice of 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.

“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. 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- never.

“Selecting the Supreme Court panel isn’t about witch-pricking- picking justices who suck 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 Caucus submitted that “selection shorn off pressure and influence of 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 Tanko must stick to precedents and conventions to preserve the integrity of the courts as the last hope of the common man and of the citizens of our great country.”

The caucus noted that “in 2008, when President Buhari, defeated by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, appealed the decision of the presidential election petition tribunal, the then CJN, Legbo Kutigi, empanelled Justices Katsina-Alu, Aloma Muktar, Dahiru Musdaphar, Walter Onnoghen 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, 1079, CJN George Sowewimo, 1983, and CJN Muhammad Uwais, 2003,” they stated.

The caucus, however, said “that on Monday, 14th October 2019 through its director of 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.”

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