By Dirisu Yakubu
With the Supreme Court set to begin hearing of the appeal filed by former Imo State governor, Emeka Ihedioha, challenging the nullification of his election, today, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Monday, charged the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Mohammed Tanko to constitute a new panel in the spirit of fairness and justice.
In a letter jointly signed by the national chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus and national secretary, Senator Ibrahim Tsauri, the PDP said only a new panel would guarantee non-partisanship in the matter at issue.
The letter dated February 14th, 2020 and received on Monday, the 17th of February, 2020, titled “Demand for recusal of justices that heard the earlier case and request for a different panel to hear the application to set aside the judgement,” noted that having earlier made same demand in the past; the PDP was constrained to repeat its demand given the significance of the case.
The party, which had earlier asked the seven learned jurists to recuse themselves stated in the letter that “as a follow up to our earlier call on all members of the panel to recuse themselves, we have now sought to formalise that request or demand. We hereby request that the seven persons that heard the case earlier recuse themselves from participating in the consideration of this new application. We are not unmindful of the fact that a litigant cannot dictate to the Court the Panel that should hear its case. However, due to the extraordinary circumstances and the nature of this case, we think that our request is a fair one that meets the justice of the case.
“Consequently, we feel it is our patriotic duty to hereby humbly request that your Lordship constitute a different panel of this great Court (other than the one that delivered the judgement) for the purpose of hearing this application,” it added
The letter obtained by our correspondent read in part: “Your Lordship would recall that a panel of Hon. Justices of the Supreme Court presided by your good self on Tuesday the 14th day of January 2020 delivered judgement on the above appeal. Your Lordship may further recall that on February 5th, 2020 the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, filed an application praying that the judgement of 14th January 2020 be set aside on grounds of nullity of the judgment, among other grounds.
“The judgement sought to be set aside has generated so much misgiving not only among lawyers but in the general polity as a whole because of the uncertainty it has introduced into our electoral jurisprudence, it is potential for crisis in our democracy, the irreconcilability of the calculations contained therein and their resultant effect.
“At the heat of the moment, the party addressed a press conference and expressed its displeasure and disagreement with the judgement, and called on the Justices that heard the case to recuse themselves during any possible future review of the case that may come before the court, the party even went further to ask the President of the Court to even resign!
In the words of the PDP Chairman: “In the light of extraordinary circumstances that vitiates that judgment as a product of manipulation and a clear coup d’état against the will of the people of Imo State, we demand that the decision of the Supreme Court on the Imo Governorship Election be reviewed and reversed in the interest of justice.
“Furthermore we demand that Justice Tanko Mohammed, the CJN and his colleagues on the Imo Governorship Panel recuse themselves…”
“Consequently, we feel it is our patriotic duty to hereby humbly request that your Lordship constitute a different panel of this great court (other than the one that delivered the judgement) for the purpose of hearing this application.
“My Lord, our request is founded on Section 36(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which guarantees fair hearing to every citizen or entity in the determination of his rights or obligations. Furthermore, the time-honoured and tested principles of natural justice, particularly that no man shall be a judge in his own cause is particularly relevant to this solemn request.”
The place of fair hearing
“Allegation of bias or likelihood of bias goes to the root of fair hearing. Denial of right to a fair hearing is a logical consequence of bias in any proceeding before a court or a tribunal. The constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended guarantees the right of an individual to a fair hearing. An individual’s right to fair hearing includes the right to have his/her rights and obligations determined by an independent and impartial tribunal.
“The above is clearly enshrined in Section 36 (1) of the Constitution, which provides as follows: “In the determination of his civil rights and obligations, including any question or determination by or against any government or authority, a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality…
“The right to an independent and impartial tribunal is a major factor in determining if a fair hearing has been observed by a Court.”
Question begging for an answer
“The relevant question on the issue of bias is what an ordinary man on the street would think about the fairness of the proceedings conducted by judges accused of the likelihood of bias. We may even be wrong on the allegations made against the learned justices of the Supreme Court that sat on the case in question. We may have been bitter about the clearly observed inadequacies in that judgment, but this is now beside the point.
“The relevant question is: can any reasonable person who heard the press conference and several protests by the Party, PDP, civil society organisations and Nigerians generally, all over the country, including foreign embassies, the involvement of even the international community, feel that the same panel that has been the subject of these allegations, rightly or wrongly by the Party, can sit and deliver impartial justice on the same case on review? We think not.”
Members of the panel the PDP wants out of hearing the case are Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, CJN; the Hon. Justice Nwah Sylvester Ngwuta JSC; the Hon. Justice Olukayode Ariwola, JSC; the Hon. Justice Kudirat Kekere – Ekun, JSC; the Hon Justice Amina Adamu Augie, JSC and the Hon Justice Uwani Musa Abba Aji, JSC,
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