Election Grievances: Tribunals Decide Tinubu’s Presidential Fate September…
There is anxiety as President Bola Tinubu and 25 state governors await the verdicts of the tribunals handling the presidential, governorship, National Assembly, and state assembly election petitions.
The panels are expected to deliver their judgments this month.
Out of the 28 states where the governorship elections were held, the results of the polls announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission are being contested in no fewer than 25 states.
Most of the tribunals which were sitting in Lagos, Sokoto, Delta, Kano, and 21 other states as well as Abuja had reserved their judgments after the parties concluded their hearings and adopted their written addresses in line with the Practice Direction for the election petitions issued by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensen.
However, political parties and their candidates who are apprehensive about the outcome of their petitions resorted to prayers and others issued cautionary words and admonitions to the justices to do what is right.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, had in November 2022 sworn in 307 justices to handle the 2023 election petitions while an additional 39 justices were inaugurated on May 25, 2023, totalling 346, and they were expected to deliver judgments before September 16.
By law, the 346 justices sitting on the panels were mandated to hand down their judgments 180 days after the filing of the petitions by the aggrieved candidates.
Section 285 (6) of the 1999 constitution provides that “an election tribunal shall deliver judgment in writing within 180 days from the date of filing of the petition.”
The presidential election petition tribunal had reserved judgment after the petitioners- the Peoples Democratic Party and its standard bearer, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi and the Labour Party closed their cases in June after calling 40 out of the 150 witnesses earlier listed in their petitions challenging the victory of the All Progressives Congress and the President.
While Tinubu’s lawyer prayed for a successful outcome, Atiku’s legal team admonished the tribunal to “shun executive intimidation and dispense judgment on the matter.’’
A member of the President’s legal team, Yusuf Ali, SAN, said he was hopeful of victory.
He said, “We pray for success at the end of the day. Cases are conducted in the court and not in the media, either social or mass media. The court listens to facts and applies the law.”
The Director of Publicity for the APC, Bala Ibrahim, denied that the ruling party was under any form of pressure and expressed confidence that justice would be served.
He said, “Which pressure? The ruling party has already delivered, unlike the Labour Party which is still groaning in labour. The pressure is on them. Obviously, anyone that is in labour is likely to be under pressure.’’
But a member of Atiku’s legal team, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, urged the tribunal to dispense justice on the matter.
He said Nigerians and the international community were watching them.
Ozekhome said, “Not for judgment date yet. I expect justice to be done. I expect the tribunal to shun blaring sirens of power or executive intimidation to do justice. I expect the tribunal to know that Nigerians, the international community, and indeed the whole world are watching.”
Weighing in, the PDP expressed confidence in the ability of the tribunal justices to dispense justice.
On the party’s expectations from the tribunal, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Ibrahim Abdullahi, simply said “Success,” without making further comments.
But a loyalist of Atiku and Deputy National Youth Leader of the PDP, Timothy Osadolor, argued that given the weight of evidence before the tribunal, the party and the former vice president had every reason to hope that justice would prevail.
Similarly, the National Legal Adviser of the Labour Party, Kehinde Edun, submitted that the party was hopeful about the outcome of the judgment.