- CUPP alleges plot to alter composition of S’Court panel on Atiku’s petition
Udora Orizu in Abuja
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, has declared that he has zero tolerance for corruption, and expressed the readiness of the National Judicial Council (NJC) to investigate and sanction judges across the country, who indulge in acts that are incongruent with judicial norms.
The CJN, who is also the Chairman of the NJC, advised any aggrieved member of the public offended by the conduct of any judicial officer to forward a petition to the legal body for appropriate action, saying his administration has zero tolerance for corruption within the judiciary.
The CJN’s position is coming as the opposition political parties under the aegis of Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) yesterday raised the alarm over an alleged plot by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to alter and jettison the composition of the proposed seven-member panel that will consider the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
However, the CJN has expressed the readiness of the Supreme Court for any eventuality, adding that it is well prepared to keep the country together as one indivisible entity through effective and efficient justice delivery.
The CJN spoke in Abuja after he received members of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) led by the Chairman, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), who paid a courtesy visit
A statement issued by the Director of Press and Information at the Supreme Court, Dr. Akande Festus, said the CJN stressed that the court, being the highest and final court in the land, is always very critical and conscious of every case that comes before it on appeal.
As such, he noted that justices of the apex court always put in a concerted effort by doing a critical review of all facts and evidence before them to arrive at a decision in order to give justice to all parties in a free, fair and generally acceptable manner without any iota of equivocation.
“We are all seasoned judicial officers that were appointed to the Supreme Court based on merit, experience and qualification. We are bound by the oath we have subscribed to and thus discharge our responsibilities without deference to anybody and we will continue to do so.
“We are never above board as human beings, so we are open to constructive criticisms. It may interest you to know that before we deliver any ruling or judgment, no matter how small it is, even if it is only five sentences, we have to hold a conference with all the justices on the panel and could even expand it in some critical situations to involve all the justices of the court. The sole aim of this practice is to ensure that justice is given in every case before us, no matter how infinitesimal it might be because we are the final court in the land.”
Meanwhile, the CUPP has raised the alarm over an alleged plot by the APC to alter and jettison the composition of the proposed seven-member panel that will consider the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar had headed to the Supreme Court to file an appeal after rejecting the tribunal’s judgment – a development that has spurred CJN to begin the process of constituting a seven-man panel who will review the judgment.
However, CUPP at a press conference in Abuja, by its spokesman, Ikenga Ugochinyere, alleged the APC has been mounting undue pressure on the CJN and indeed the entire court to accept a hand-picked panel and jettison the age-long tradition of selecting the most senior justices of the Supreme Court to sit on the panel.
Ikenga argued that the way by which CJN wants to constitute the panel is in violation of the age-long practice of appointing the most senior Justice, since 1979.
He stated that the opposition parties will not accept a handpicked panel neither will the pronouncement of such panel command the requite respect and confidence of the people of Nigeria.
Ugochinyere listed the names of 15 Supreme Court Justices with the date they were appointed as follows: Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed, CJN (2006); Bode Rhodes Vivour (2010); Nwali Sylvester Ngwuta (2011); Mary Odili (2011); Olukayode Ariwoola (2011); Musa Datijo Mohammad (2012).
Others include Kumayi Bayang Akaahs (2012); Kudirat Kekere-Ekun (2013); John Inyang Okoro Jsc (2013); Chima Centus Nweze (2014); Amiru Sanisu Jsc (2015); Amina Adamu Augie (2016); Ejembi Eko Jsc (2016); Paul Adamu Galinje Jsc (2016) and Uwani Abba Aji Jsc (2018).
He said, “It can be observed from the list that the youngest of the top seven justices of the court was appointed in 2012 when both contenders could not have envisaged today. From 1979 to the return to democracy in 1999, the journey has been about seniority of justices when composing presidential election appeal panel at the Supreme Court.”
He added that the coalition wanted this age-long tradition of composing presidential election dispute panel in order of seniority maintained because they do not trust the altering of the seniority list under a Buhari-led APC’s federal government.