The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) has kicked against plans by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad to handpick judges to hear the appeal filed by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar. 

In a press conference in Abuja on Thursday, the CUPP spokesman, Ikenga Ugochinyere said any attempt to subvert the tradition of picking the most senior justices in the country to serve in the panel would make Nigerians lose confidence in the judiciary.

The CUPP alleged that President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) knew they were going to rig the last general elections hence the military-style forceful removal of the former CJN, Walter Onnoghen against the express orders of a court.

“The opposition wants this age long tradition of composing presidential election dispute panel in order of seniority maintained because we do not trust the ordering of the security list under a Buhari-led APC federal Government.

“They and some institutions have not earned our trust on this dispute to reclaim our mandate. The method the APC government used and the circumstances surrounding the installation of the new CJN is the reason our confidence level is low. 

“And the only way is to allow those traditions to install confidence in all parties and ensure not only the delivery of justice but also for the people to accept that justice has been done. 

“A hand picked panel at this tensed period would rib the Supreme Court of the confidence, impartiality and trust of the citizens to hear the matter.

“All over the world, even in Africa, it is always the most senior justices that handle such matters. Even Article 3 and Article C of the International Justice Statute and Rule expressly provides for seniority in handling matters. 

“Also in the Nigerian Bar and bench, seniority is recognized and respected. From 1979 to the return of democracy in 1999, the journey has been about the seniority of justices when composing presidential election panels at the Supreme Court.

“From Kenya to Ghana to many parts of Europe, it is about seniority. In the recent Kenyan presidential election petition, the Kenyan Chief Justice, David Marsha along with his deputy, Lady Justice Philomena Mbete led other eminent senior justices of the Kenyan Supreme Court.

“And despite all manipulations to force him out of office for failing to compose a hand picked panel, he still presided and did justice in the election dispute,” Ugochinyere said in the statement.

The CUPP wondered why there was a sudden pressure from the APC-led government for members of the election panel to be hand picked as against the long-standing tradition of picking from the most senior judges. 

The Coalition said whoever wins at the Supreme Court would only have the support and trust of the citizens of Nigeria if only the judgment is deemed to have been delivered fairly and not to meet a desired result.

The CUPP therefore called on the ruling APC to remove politics from the Supreme Court and in the judiciary in general to allow for a free and fair dissemination of undiluted justice.