Heading in Opposite Direction
Winners in the 2011 elections are getting ready to take over their offices while losers are heading for the tribunals
The 2011 general elections have been won and lost. While the winners are preparing for their inauguration on May 29, which is the handover date, some of the losers are heading for the courts to challenge the victories of their opponents at the election petition tribunals. The tribunals were inaugurated in March this year and they have commenced sitting in some states.
Aloysius Katsina-Alu, chief justice of the federation, CJN, while inaugurating 110 judges who will handle election petitions in various parts of the country, urged them to live above board in carrying out their job. “You must bear in mind that in most cases in this country, when Election Petition Tribunal fail in their duties, the consequence had been violence resulting in murder and arson,” Katsina-Alu said.
It was also in recognition of the enormous task before the members and the need to be thorough in their assignment that the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, IFES, in collaboration with Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, recently organised a training programme for members of the tribunal across the six geopolitical zones. Chris Hennemeyer, IFES’ Nigeria Interim Country director, explained that the training was designed to enhance the capacity of Nigerian lawyers in discharging their duties effectively. According to Hennemeyer, Nigerians are not naive to think that the 2011 elections were flawless even though the country received a pass mark for the conduct of the elections adjudged to be the most free and fair in recent time.
Joseph Daudu, president, NBA, appealed to lawyers to conduct themselves in a respectable manner in handling issues of election disputes. He warned the lawyers of the consequence of allowing their professional ethics to be eroded by unprofessional conducts during the period of their assignment.
Similarly, Ben Chukwudi Ude, solicitor and managing partner in B C Ude & Co., admitted that the task before the tribunals is very challenging especially in the area of inducement and advise members to guard against desperate politicians who may want to influence their decisions. Ude said the calibre of people appointed into the tribunal, had giving him the hope that they would be above board.
He appealed to INEC to allow for the inspection of the election materials by counsels as required by the Electoral Acts. “If INEC failed to do so then it has greatly eroded the electoral process, rubbished and proved itself unworthy of all accolades showered on it,” he said.
Olatunji Shelle, secretary, People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Lagos State, is happy that the number of petitions that arose from the 2011 election is small compared with that of 2007, and this make the tribunals more effective. “With the right calibre of people on the tribunal, I don’t entertain any fear that they would discharge their responsibilities within the time frame and effectively.” Shelle said.
One of the cases that would generate a lot of interest is that filed by the Congress for Progressive Change CPC, challenging the election of President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2011 presidential election. In the petition which was filed by Ebun Shofunde, Abubakar Malami, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, and Alasa Ismail, the CPC is asking the tribunal to set aside the presidential election of April 16, and organise a fresh election between the CPC and the People’s Democratic Party, PDP. The CPC claimed that it would prove at the hearing that there was substantial variation in voters register used by INEC for the conduct of the presidential and governorship elections, respectively.
But the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, which presented Nuhu Ribadu as its presidential candidate, said it would not challenge the election of Jonathan at the tribunal.
In Delta State, the tribunal as at last week had not received any petition on the April 26 governorship election. Deborah Musa, secretary to the tribunal in Delta State, stated that they had received nine petitions so far, but none of them is on the governorship election. The breakdown of the petitions showed that five are challenging the senatorial elections while four on the House of Representatives.
The tribunal in Bauchi State has received 11 petitions so far. The 11 petitions were challenging the conduct of the National Assembly elections. Boni Haruna, former governor of Adamawa State, who contested the 2011 senatorial election in Adamawa State, has filed a petition challenging the election of Bindo Jibrilla of PDP.
In Rivers State, the tribunal has received 13 petitions challenging the conduct of National Assembly elections in the state. The petitions from Shedrack Akaloku of ACN and Abraham Igwe of People’s Mandate Party, were among those already filed. They are challenging the election of Wilson Asinobi Ake as senator-elect for Rivers West senatorial district. Akaloku who scored 32,558 votes to come second against Ake’s 144, 168 votes alleged that the election was marred with irregularities. The irregularities took place in Bonny, Degema, Ahoada East and Ogba/ Egbema/Ndoni local government areas.
The election of Magnus Abe former secretary to the Rivers State government as senator representing Rivers South-East has also been challenged by Nomate Kpea, ACN candidate from the area.
In Kogi State, Attai Aidoko, the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, senatorial candidate who lost the election to Benjamin Dagana of the PDP has gone to the tribunal to challenge the result. Dino Melaye, who lost his bid to return to the House of Representatives as member representing Kabba Bunnu Federal constituency, has also filed his case at the tribunal in Lokoja, Kogi State.