ABUJA, Nigeria – A civil rights and advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has condemned the lack of transparency and openness in the composition of the Supreme court of Nigeria ‘s panellists to adjudicate on the appeal by the opposition presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
The Supreme Court on Sunday fixed October 30, 2019, for the commencement of the hearing of appeal suit filed by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 general elections, Atiku Abubakar, challenging the judgment of the presidential election tribunal, which affirmed the election of President Muhammadu Buhari.
It, however, did not release the names of Judges that would hear Atiku’s appeal against President Muhammadu Buhari.
But reacting, 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. The supreme court just like any other competent courts of law is recognized under section 6. The people of Nigeria are recognized in section 14(2) (a) of the Nigerian constitution as the owners of the sovergnity of Nigeria from whom government through this constitution derives all its powers and authority.
“The failure to abide by the freedom of information law and the constitution by not disclosing the identities of justices to hear the most important public interest litigation has rendered the legitimacy of the entire process questionable. The Nigerian constitution gives the media in section 22, the role of the guardian of the public information. So why is the chief justice of Nigeria treating this list of panellists like there is some form of secrecy which must not be disclosed to Nigerians?”
“Why inform Nigerians about the date of the hearing but refused to disclose the names of the justices? This arbitrariness and unconstitutional secrecy has damaged the process even before it takes off and this is very unfortunate.”