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Ihedioha vs Uzodinma: PDP tells CJN Tanko Muhammad, 6 others to recuse themselves from Tuesday’s judgement

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has told the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad that he, for the sake of fairness, should recuse himself from the hearing of the review application on the Imo State governorship election petition.

The main opposition also demanded that six other justices of the Supreme Court who delivered the earlier judgement that sacked the its candidate Emeka Ihedioha as the Imo State governor January 14 recuse themselves.

The party said the Justices who should not be involved in the matter again are Nwah Sylvester Ngwuta, Justice Olukayode Ariwola, Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Justice Amina Adamu Augie, and Justice Uwani Musa Abba Aji.

The Supreme Court has fixed Tuesday for the hearing of the application for review in its judgement that saw Senator Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress, APC, declared winner of the state’s governorship election

The PDP made its decision known in a letter to the CJN, dated February 14, 2020.

The letter was signed by Prince Uche Secondus, PDP National Chairman and National Secretary, Senator Ibrahim Tsauri.

The party made the demands on the grounds of likelihood of bias and the need to ensure fair hearing, adding that it was to ensure that fairness and justice is not only done, but also seen to have been done.

The letter said in part, “As a follow up to our earlier call on all members of the panel to recuse themselves, we have now sought to formalise that request or demand.

“We hereby request that the seven persons that heard the case earlier recuse themselves from participating in the consideration of this new application.

“We are not unmindful of the fact that a litigant cannot dictate to the court the panel that should hear its case. However, due to the extraordinary circumstances and the nature of this case, we think that our request is a fair one that meets the justice of the case.

“Consequently, we feel it as our patriotic duty to hereby humbly request that your Lordship constitute a different panel of this great court (other than the one that delivered the judgement) for the purpose of hearing this application.

“Your Lordship would recall that a panel of Hon. Justices of the Supreme Court presided by your good self on Tuesday the 14th day of January 2020, delivered judgement on the above appeal.

“Your Lordship may further recall that on February 5th, 2020 the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) filed an application praying that the judgement of 14th January 2020 be set aside on grounds of nullity of the judgment, among other grounds.

“The judgement sought to be set aside has generated so much misgiving not only among lawyers but in the general polity as a whole because of the uncertainty it has introduced into our electoral jurisprudence, its potential for crisis in our democracy, the irreconcilability of the calculations contained therein and their resultant effect.

“At the heat of the moment, the Party addressed a Press Conference and expressed its displeasure and disagreement with the judgement, and called on the Justices that heard the case to recuse themselves during any possible future review of the case that may come before the Court, the Party even went further to ask the President of the Court to even resign.

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“As a follow up to our earlier call on all members of the Panel to recuse themselves, we have now sought to formalise that request or demand. We hereby request that the 7 persons that heard the case earlier recuse themselves from participating in the consideration of this new application.

“My Lord, our request is founded on Section 36(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which guarantees fair hearing to every citizen or entity in the determination of his rights or obligations.

“Furthermore, the time honoured and tested principles of natural justice, particularly that no man shall be a judge in his own cause is particularly relevant to this solemn request.

“Allegation of bias or likelihood of bias goes to the root of fair hearing. Denial of right to fair hearing is a logical consequence of bias in any proceeding before a Court or a tribunal.

“The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as Amended (Constitution) guarantees the right of an individual to fair hearing. An individual’s right to fair hearing includes the right to have his/her rights and obligations determined by an independent and impartial tribunal.

“The above is clearly enshrined in Section 36 (1) of the Constitution, which provides as follows: ‘In the determination of his civil rights and obligations, including any question or determination by or against any government or authority, a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality’

“The right to an independent and impartial tribunal is a major factor in determining if fair hearing has been observed by a Court.

“The relevant question on the issue of bias is what an ordinary man on the street would think about the fairness of the proceedings conducted by judges accused of likelihood of bias.

“We may even be wrong on the allegations made against the learned justices of the Supreme Court that sat on the case in question. We may have been bitter about the clearly observed inadequacies in that judgment, but this is now beside the point.

“The relevant question is: can any reasonable person who heard the Press Conference and several protests by the Party, PDP, the Civil Society Organisations and Nigerians generally, all over the country, including foreign embassies, the involvement of even the international community, feel that the same panel that has been the subject of these allegations, rightly or wrongly by the Party, can sit and deliver impartial justice on the same case on review? We think not.”

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