Made in Abuja tribunals and interpretation of the electoral act.....

By John Okiyi Kalu on

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I am uncomfortable commenting on judicial issues because judges are supposed to be above questioning. There is also an inbuilt mechanism via appeal to correct judicial blunders.

 

Yet I cant help wondering about the Taraba ruling of yesterday and other rulings that came from governorship election petition tribunals that were forced to sit at Abuja.

 

First, I noticed that all 3 tribunals moved to Abuja by the APC led Federal Government delivered favorable, albeit contentious, judgements to AP.C candidates who challenged elections in

Rivers, Akwa Ibom and now Taraba States, While I am reluctant to blame President Buhari or his body odor/language I strongly suspect a political layer led by a northern governor of being behind these fantastic rulings. I wish the President will demand reviews of the judgements from independent bodies like NJC and NBA to guide him in calling whoever is manipulating the judiciary to order. The President is a product of justice because the judiciary saved him from being disqualified from contesting the polls with no verifiable certificate.

 

My legally "illiterate" thoughts on Rivers and Akwa Ibom are within public domain.

 

On Taraba, I know for a fact that selection of party candidates fall within internal affairs of political parties who may decide to select their candidates at Utonkom or Syria. Did the party called PDP submit the name of its candidate for Taraba governorship or not? That is the fundamental requirement from the party. For INEC, did they screen and accept the party's candidate and listed him as a valid contestant or not?

 

There is actually no legal provision that insists parties must use voting primaries as against consensus to produce their candidate. The APC candidate in Rivers is an example. The law also did not impose a location where valid primaries must be held. Furthermore, the tribunal does not have powers to enquire into how a party's candidate emerged beyond confirming that the nomination was validly endorsed by the party and accepted by INEC. Parties are permitted to make and follow their own rules with regards to nomination of candidates for elections.

 

Question 1: Did INEC accept and screen the PDP candidate before the polls? If yes, all other matters are internal party issues.

 

Taraba tribunal is sitting at Abuja whereas Taraba State is not Abuja or within the federal capital territory. If it is not illegal for the tribunal to sit at Abuja how on earth will it be illegal for PDP to nominate it's candidate from Abuja?

 

Question 2: If the tribunal is sitting at Abuja because of insecurity couldn't the party had sat at Abuja for same reason of insecurity to nominate their candidate? Or are we saying the insecurity started after the polls?

 

I know for a fact that the electoral act 2010 (as amended) clearly stated that if elections are nullified on the basis that the winner is not qualified ab initio to contest the tribunal should order fresh election as against declaring the second placed person winner. I came to this knowledge when Abia tribunal nullified the election of APGA's candidate for Aba North house of assembly on grounds of forged certificate and no voters card. Instead of declaring second placed PDP candidate, Blessing Nwagba, winner they called for fresh election. It baffled me and I picked up my copy of the 2010 electoral act as amended and read section 140(2) and confirmed that the tribunal was right as against being anti-PDP.

 

Common sense analysis also said to me that the second placed person may not have met constitutional requirement to be declared dully elected.

 

For those not schooled in electoral matters, there is a difference between winning a poll and meeting constitutional requirement to be declared validly elected. For instance, you can poll 5m votes from Kano, N12m from Katsina to score majority of votes in a presidential poll.. But if you fail to meet the requirement of 25% of votes in 2/3 of the 36 states you are not validly elected. A fresh poll must be conducted and same applies to governorship election.

 

I strongly suspect that was why that section of the electoral act stated clearly that you nullify and conduct fresh polls.

 

Question 3: On what basis did the Abuja tribunal declare the APC candidate validly elected? Are the members of the tribunal not aware of section 142 or what?

 

Let me tell Nigerians of different persuasion this: once the judiciary is sucked into partisan politics Nigeria is finished. The judiciary is our last defense and actually the custodians of our democracy. They must not only dispense justice but also be manifestly seen to have done so vis-a-vis the letters and spirit of the law. Hence, whoever is involved in judicial manipulation is an enemy of democracy and should be treated as someone involved in treason.

 

Let this ruling and others churned out by Abuja migrated tribunals be appealed up to the Supreme court. That will help ensure uniform interpretation of the law and avoid judicial anarchy.

 

Indeed anyone who believes he has received the wrong end of judicial stick can appeal like Ihedioha of PDP Imo State and Agbaje (PDP Lagos) did and lost all the way to the Supreme court. Right to appeal does not approximate to right to win or lose but it is available to those who are convinced that there is something to litigate against. If you are sure you lost fair and square, don't bother wasting your time and money like Ihedioha. But if you believe there is miscarriage of justice as signposted by non uniform or common sense interpretation of the law, RUSH to the Appeal and Supreme Courts.

 

I believe the made in Abuja rulings should be appealed.

 

 

Happy Sunday!

 

Posted on November, 8 2015

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