A caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the House in Representatives, has suggested the appointment of Justices Ibrahim Tanko, Rhodes-Vivour, Mary Odili, Sylvester Ngwata, Olukayode Ariwoola, Musa Mohammed and Kumai Akaahs to hear and determine the appeal filed by the PDP Presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar challenging the judgement of the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal declaring President Muhammadu Buhari as the winner of the 2019 Presidential election.
The factional caucus accused the leadership of the Supreme Court of trying to thwart the convention of selecting the most senior Justices of the Supreme Court to hear and determine such matters.
The caucus said that the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of Nigeria must abide by that norm and resist the pressure to appoint justices who they alleged would favour the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its presidential candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari in deciding the appeal.
In a statement signed by PDP Caucus Leader, Hon. Kingsley Chinda; Deputy Leader, Hon. Chukwuma Onyema; Caucus Whip, Hon. Umar Barde; and Deputy Caucus Whip, Hon. Muraina Ajibola; the PDP Caucus said post-Chief Justices of Nigeria since 1979 have set the precedent of appointing the most senior Justices to hear the Presidential election appeal.
The caucus stressed that the first seven senior Justices should be appointed to hear the appeal and listed them to Justices Ibrahim Tanko (CJN), Justice Rhodes-Vivour, Justice Mary Odili, Justice Sylvester Ngwata, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, Justice Musa Mohammed and Justice Kumai Akaahs.
The statement reads in part: “The hearing of the appeal on the decision of the Presidential Election Petitions filed by Alhaji Abubakar Atiku against President Buhari 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 Petitions Appeal Panel surrendered to the phoney dictates of the ruling parties”.
According to the statement, “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 late President Umaru Yar’Adua, appealed the decision of the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal, the then Chief Justice, Legbo Kutigi, empanelled Justices Katsina-Alu, Aloma Mukhtar, Dahiru Mustapha, 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, 20033 .
The caucus added that “CJN Katsina-Alu also followed CJN Kutigi’s steps in 2011 and kept to the age-long conventional practice. If there is an 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 Buhari 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 attribute for selection is that they demonstrate permanent dislike for justice and passion for doing the bidding of power”.
The statement further buttressed that, “Selection, shorn of 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.
“We are, however, gladdened that on Monday, 14th October, 2019, through its Director, 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.
“We wish to state that selection of Justices to hear the appeal of our great party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, against Buhari 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”.
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The Rivers State Government has expressed worries over the high level of non-compliance of health protocols with respect to the Covid-19 pandemic, warning that henceforth any resident caught without wearing facemask will be arrested and prosecuted.
The State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim handed down the warning while speaking on a live Radio programme in Port Harcourt on Saturday and monitored by the Tide.
Nsirim who is Chairman of the State Inter-ministerial Committee on Enlightenment for Covid-19 recalled the unhappiness of Governor Nyesom Wike during last Wednesday’s State broadcast with the attitude of many residents who flaunt extant directives on the wearing of facemask and other health protocols.
“The Governor in that broadcast also expressed concern that a lot of people in the State are not obeying the protocols. Social distancing, wearing of facemask and he spoke specifically in what is happening in some churches. Government will introduce policies, the onus is on the populace to obey those policies.
“Not just obeying it, the Covid-19 pandemic that we are talking about has defied medical solution for now. So to flatten the curve, everyone living and doing business in Rivers State has to take responsibility.
“If I take responsibility and everyone around me takes responsibility to observe the relevant protocol, we are sure to flatten the curve. But if people live righteously and just do as if nothing is happening because there are places where people are just living in denial.
“Some people still believe that there is nothing like Coronavirus. Two weeks ago, my committee rounded off street to street campaign in all the 23 local government areas of the State. They still met people who are in this denial. That is the challenge.
“The Governor is desirous that Rivers State remains safe. That is why he is initiating policies to ensure that strategically the state is somehow isolated from the national spread,” the Commissioner said.
Nsirim further said, “If you go around the State, since the executive order on facemask was introduced. You will notice that less than
30 per cent of the populace are really obeying that executive order. What we are seeing in the State is that people just put the mask around their chin.
“You go to some churches we see people open their mouth and things will be spewing out in the enclosed environment on the chin. The Governor is saying that to give this wearing of facemask the kind of weight that it deserves to save our people, a special taskforce be put in place.
“That is the only sure way because a lot of people are still living in denial. He said the governor’s broadcast is very clear, arrest and prosecute. Henceforth we will arrest and prosecute people not wearing facemask in public places,” he stated.
The Rivers State Government spokesman said arrangements have been concluded to monitor churches that fail to observe the guidelines of not more than 70 persons per church service, wearing of facemask, provision of water for hand washing and the use of hand sanitizers, while weddings and burial ceremonies should not exceed 50 persons.
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