Presidential election tribunal: Rights group counsels CJN on panel of judges

A Civil Society Organisation, Nigeria Centre for Justice and Rule of Law (NCJRL) has urged the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad to
adhere strictly to the tradition where the most senior judges in the Supreme Court preside over presidential election matters.

In a statement made available to newsmen in Abuja, by  the Nigeria Centre for Justice and
Rule of Law which was signed by Dr James Adeoye and Barrister Yusuf Abdullahi,
chairman and secretary, respectively, it declared that  the call became necessary in the interest of justice

The panel is expected to handle the appeal of the Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, in the Supreme Court.

Presently, the seven most senior judges in the Supreme Court are Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad; Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour; Justice Mary Odili and Justice Nwali Sylvester Ngwuta.

Others are Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, Justice Musa Datijo Muhammad and Justice Kumai Bayang Akaahs.

According to the group, “our findings revealed that so far the CJN has tentatively pencilled down himself, Justice Rhodes-Vivor; Justice Baba Aji; Justice Inyang Okoro; Justice Cletus Nwaeze; Justice Musa Datijo
and Justice Augie to hear Atiku’s petition that is expected to be filed next week.

“We also reliably gathered that the CJN may replace some of these judges with some the new judges President Muhammadu Buhari requested to be recruited in June, and that is the reason the National Judicial Council (NJC) is in a hurry to interview the incoming new judges.”

“The panel should be based on seniority as has been the tradition and any deviation from this will give credence to speculations in the
public space that the CJN was brought into office to do a hatchet job.

“Even if the CJN for any reason, which is subject to different interpretations, decides to deviate from the norm, the panel should
represent the interest of the various geo-political zones in the country.

“But this option of picking the panel to satisfy geo-political interest may be a bad precedent and certainly not good for posterity as the judiciary will be perceived as being politicised.”

The Nigeria Centre for Justice and Rule of Law emphasized that the most vexatious of their findings is the plot to make new judges of the Supreme Court members of the Presidential Election Panel.

“Is it right for greenhorn judges that are just coming to the Supreme Court to be members of the panel when we have senior and more
experienced judges in the Supreme Court?

“We are aware they want to rush the interview of these new judges and send the list to President Muhammadu Buhari for onward transmission to the Senate for confirmation. Our present senate will expectedly rubber stamp the list and confirm them.

“What is the motive behind the rush to bring in these new judges into the Supreme Court in the middle of crucial election petition?”

The group called on the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and other civil society organisations to brace up to the challenge and ensure that the time-tested tradition where most senior judges in the Supreme Court are members of presidential election panel is not circumvented by the CJN.

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