As the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar, prepare to challenge the dismissal of their petition before the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal, there have been speculations on the list of justices who may sit on the appeal. The Supreme Court presently has 17 justices, out of which seven must preside over the appeal. The seven most senior justices in that order are: Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad and Justices Bode Rhodes-Vivour, Mary Odili, Nwali Sylvester Ngwuta, Olukayode Ariwoola, Musa Datijo Muhammad and Kumai Bayang Akaahs. However, President Muhammadu Buhari earlier this year directed the National Judicial Council (NJC) to appoint additional six justices.
Some other justices of the apex court include: Justices Amina Augie, Amiru Sanusi, Adamu Galinje, Inyang Okoro, Cletus Nweze, and Uwani Abba-Aji among others. The Supreme Court, as the nation’s highest adjudicatory body, is built on the foundation of seniority, order and decorum. As such, election petitions, especially the presidential election petitions, are areas where experience and courage are most required on the judicial bench. The PDP and Atiku have been working on their appeal challenging the decision of the five-member tribunal presided by Justice Mohammed Garba.
The panel ruled that PDP and Atiku failed to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, allegations of corruption and non-compliance with the Electoral Act against Buhari and the APC. Lawyers to PDP and Atiku including Levy Uzoukwu (SAN) and Mike Ozekhome (SAN) had preparatory to filing the appeal claimed the judgment was full of errors and inventions of submissions not made by the parties. Mike Ozekhome (SAN) said several things were wrong with the judgement of the tribunal such as: poor evaluation of evidence, non-evaluation of evidence, misplacement of exactly what the case of the petitioners is, and the fact of provisions of the Electoral Act being misinterpreted and misapplied.
“At the Supreme Court there will be seven very, very good heads that will hear the appeal from here. There is no question about that; we will appeal the judgment,” he said. But one of the lawyers to Buhari, Sam Ologunorisa (SAN), said the appeal by the PDP and Atiku was expected but added that it would help to enrich the country’s law. “As lawyers, our opinions on issues of law and evaluation of facts arising therefrom are bound to differ.
The presidential election petition and the issues so distilled will generate this type of reaction as the stakes are high,” he said. “In all, our legal jurisprudence is bound to be richer and I hope the political class will learn one or two lessons and initiate appropriate reforms to deepen our democracy,” he said.