The Supreme Court has unveiled a seven-man panel to hear appeal by Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the February 23 presidential election.
The panel will be headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed, with Bode Rhodes-Vivour, Amiru Sanusi, Uwani Abaji, Ejembi Eko, John Inyang Okoro and Olukayode Ariwoola.
Supreme Court had on Sunday fixed October 30, 2019, for the commencement of the hearing of appeal.
Mr Abubakar and PDP are challenging the September 11 judgment of the Justice Mohammed Garba-led Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal which affirmed President Buhari’s victory at the polls.
The setting up of the panel has generated heated debate, with pressure mounted on the Chief Justice of Nigeria to follow precedence in the panel formation.
A civil rights and advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has condemned alleged lack of transparency and openness in the composition of the Supreme Court of Nigeria’s panel to hear the appeal.
HURIWA in a statement by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, said ‘the way and manner in which the hierarchy of the Supreme Court of Nigeria headed by Chief Justice of Nigeria, Muhammad Tanko has handled the composition of the panel and the untoward secrecy surrounding the identity of the justices to sit on the contentious matter has rendered the entire process a nullity in the eyes of the general public.”
According to the rights group, constitutional democracy thrives and obtains legitimacy when transparency, openness, fairness are made the fundamental benchmarks in the dispensation of justice.
The statement reads: ”The decision by the chief justice of Nigeria to keep the identities of the panellists closed to his chest contrary to extant convention whereby the people of Nigeria are democratically informed and full disclosures made on the panellists, has made the entire scenarios to appear like government magic. “What is the Chief Justice of Nigeria hiding?
“As human rights practitioners, we condemn the decision to treat the Supreme Court’s anticipated handling of the appeal against the decision of the presidential election petition’s tribunal filed by the opposition leader and erstwhile vice president, as if it is a top state secret, makes the entire process to appear like a drama unworthy of the trust, and buy-in of the people of Nigeria who are the donors of the authority being exercised by the holder of the office of president of Nigeria.”