Atiku’s Case: Why Justice Rhodes-Vivour, 2 others must not be empanelled –Buhari Group

The politics surrounding the composition of Supreme Court panel to hear and determine a pending joint appeal by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, is getting messier by the day.

This is because ahead of the panel composition, the Buhari Media Organization on Monday fingered three sitting justices of the Supreme Court who should disqualify themselves without prompting if they are nominated by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) to sit on the panel that would determine the Atiku’s appeal.

The group which listed the justices as Justice Mary Odili, Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour and Justice Sylvester Ngwuta said it would be better if the judicial officers are not empanelled at all.

The group which hinted that the ruling party might apply that the named justices step down from the panel if the CJN nominates them said it was reacting to the insistence by some members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that three particular Justices of the Supreme Court must hear the appeal of their candidate, Atiku Abubakar at the Supreme Court.

It insisted that the Justices have connections to members of the party thus, unreasonable and an insult to common sense. 

The BMO said that in fact, those three Justices must on no account be members of the Supreme Court panel to hear the appeal. 

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Also, the group cautioned the PDP caucus in the House of Representatives not to interfere, in any way, with the Supreme Court, and by extension the Judiciary, which is another arm of government. 

The group said if the Judiciary did not dictate to the Legislature on how to pick its principal officers, the National Assembly should not attempt to dictate to the Judiciary how it performs its duties.

In a statement signed by its Chairman and Secretary, Niyi Akinsiju and Cassidy Madueke respectively, the group stated that the three Justices, Justice Mary Odili, Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour and Justice Sylvester Ngwuta had either a filial connection, a marital relationship or some ill-feeling towards the current administration and thus the insistence by the People’s Democratic Party that they must sit to hear the Appeal is suspicious.

“Justice Mary Odili is the wife of a former PDP Governor of Rivers State. Her husband also aspired to be President under the platform of the PDP. He is still a member of the party. The son of Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour ran in the 2019 Senatorial elections under the platform of the PDP. Justice Sylvester Ngwuta was investigated and prosecuted for corruption by the Buhari administration.

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“The call by the PDP that these Justices who, from the above, are likely to have biases for the candidate of the PDP and against the decision and judgment of the Tribunal affirming the victory of President Buhari is anomalous.

“The preference for these Justices gives the impression that there may be some unholy romance going on.

“While we do not want to believe that the sanctity of our Judiciary might be smeared by such an unholy alliance, we equally would not want to pretend to the fact that, previously, Justices of the Supreme Court have been found wanting on moral expectations.

“We do not want to believe that such a call by the PDP insisting on these Justices sitting for the appeal is a joke.

“There is a method to every madness. We, therefore, call on Nigerians to pay serious attention to events that would unfold before, during and after the Supreme Court hears the appeal.”

BMO also called on the three Justices to search themselves, and if they find themselves wanting, they should recuse themselves from sitting on the Appeal.

“The three Justices in question are hereby called upon to search themselves for any likely biases and to self-regulate themselves if they might fall short of the moral standard expected of Justices, and recuse themselves.

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“They must not hear this matter. Any form of bias for or against a party in a suit by a Justice sitting on that matter is dangerous and could weaken the fabric of justice which we the people hold strong and firm.

“The Supreme Court of Nigeria is a revered institution. While we have our suspicions and have expressed same, about the recent statements by the PDP insisting on three particular Justices sitting on Atiku’s appeal, we would give the benefit of doubt.

“Thus, we expect that the Court would do justice and not upend it. We expect that there should be no partisanship in constituting its panel for this appeal.

“We expect that none of its Justices should have a bias for a candidate or against another.

“We believe that those to be selected to sit and hear the appeal are more than capable to do so.

“The PDP must not bully those whose job it is to select those to sit on the panel. The party must keep its penchant for corrupting and destroying anything it touches away from the Judiciary,” the statement added.