Decision of CJN to hide panelists is suspicious – HURIWA

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*Condemns continuous land border closure without sacking inefficient border security

A prominent civil Rights 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 in the highly disputed 2019 presidential poll Alhaji Atiku Abubakar against the Appellate court’s victory awarded to president Muhammadu Buhari.

HURIWA has also condemned the double standards by the Federal government to closed the borders for a long period of time because of the lack of efficient border security but at the same time President Muhammadu Buhari who kept flying all around the globe refused to sack the Comptrollers General of Nigerian Customs Service (Retired Colonel Hameed Alli)  and Nigerian Immigration Services (Mohammed Babandede) all Moslem Northerners  both of whom failed spectacularly to prevent the reported influx of smuggled goods and services into Nigeria for which are the reasons the current administration arbitrarily closed the borders. The Rights group said the President was being sectional for retaining the services of his Northern clique that run the badly secured borders of Nigeria in the Customs and the Immigration departments. 

HURIWA said the way and manner that 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 of the highest public interest has rendered the entire process a nullity in the eyes of the general public given that constitutional democracy thrives and obtains legitimacy when transparency, openness, fairness are made the fundamental benchmarks in the dispensation of justice.

HURIWA said 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 ppanellists 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.”

Relatedly, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) said it read with shock the statement by the Central Bank of Nigeria governor justifying the continuous closure of the Nigeria’s land borders anchoring it on the need to prevent goods and services from neighbouring countries from flooding into Nigeria even without the apex banking regulator addressing the fundamental issue of failure of the extant border security architecture which must be reformed holistically in order for those noble goals of improving the local business climate for producers and farmers in Nigeria to be attained seamlessly.

HURIWA said: ” We just read the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, who listed the gains of border closure since August to include boosting domestic trade, job creation and enhancing Nigeria’s economic policies and affirmed that before the borders would eventually be reopened; affected countries must be effectively engaged with a view to agreeing on certain terms and conditions. The Apex banking industry regulator of Nigeria whilst answering questions from State House correspondents in Abuja after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari before the president’s departure to Saudi Arabia, Emefiele illustrated how some businesses, which he said had almost collapsed before the border closure, suddenly became productive barely a week after the closure. He narrated the experiences of rice millers and members of the Poultry Association of Nigeria whom he said had before the closure called him to lament about low sales, only to witness a sharp rise in demand shortly after the closure. He described smuggling of foreign products into the country as a major impediment to the growth of local industries and businesses, adding that rice and poultry businesses have been booming optimally since the borders were closed.”

HURIWA however maintained that closing the borders and letting the inefficient and ineffective border security administrators to remain in office is cosmetic and is unjustifiable. The Rights group said the President must come clean on the border issues and avoid ethno religious sentiments if his administration is desirous of effectively putting in place a fool proof border security administration.   

Source: The Human Rights Writer’s Association of Nigeria

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