Factional leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party caucus in the House of Representatives has warned against what it describes as “external interference” in the appointment of a panel on presidential election case at the Supreme Court.
The PDP lawmakers alleged that there were reports that the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ibrahim Tanko, was being influenced in the selection of Supreme Court justices to hear the case instituted by the PDP and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, against the All Progressives Congress and President Muhammadu Buhari.
A statement by the lawmakers issued in Abuja on Thursday was signed by Messrs Kingsley Chinda as the PDP Caucus Leader; Chukwuma Onyema as Deputy Caucus Leader; Umar Barde as Caucus Whip; and Muraina Ajibola as the Deputy Caucus Whip.
The statement reads, “The hearing of the appeal on the decision of the Presidential Election Petition filed by Alhaji Abubakar Atiku and our great party, the PDP, begins in 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. 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!”
According to the PDP lawmakers, 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 the APC government and serve the interest of a select individual or group,” they said.
The statement further read, “Selecting the Supreme Court panel isn’t about witch-pricking – pricking Justices who suck blood out of justice; it 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 tor doing the bidding of power.
“Surely, selection, shorn off 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.”
The PDP caucus said they were, however, gladdened that on Monday, through its Director of Press and Information, Dr. Festus Akande, the Supreme Court refuted “this intent” and reassured the public that the apex court was out to “serve the interest of the generality of the Nigerian masses and not select individuals or groups”.
The lawmaker said, “We, therefore, pray and hope that the Supreme Court does not allow itself to fall into this gobble trap.
“Finally, we wish to state that selection of Justices to hear the appeal of our great party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, 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.”