As the 2019 General Election winds down this weekend, no doubt attention will shift to the Election Petitions tribunals as candidates who feel cheated will besiege the tribunals seeking redress.
Recall that the judiciary had in January, about a month before the Presidential and National Assembly elections were held on Saturday, February 23, 2019, sworn-in members of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal and National Assembly Election Tribunal.
Equally inaugurated by the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, was the State Governorship and House of Assembly Election Petitions Tribunals for the states where election is scheduled to hold on March 9, 2019.
These were done in clear compliance with the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No. 21) Act, 2017.
The sole function of the tribunals is to receive and determine petitions from aggrieved candidates and political parties that are dissatisfied with the activities of the elections umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), its results, processes and procedures.
So, as the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections draw to a close this Saturday, March 9 rounding off the 2019 general election, public attention will move to the tribunals.
The public expect members of the various tribunals to exhibit the highest sense of responsibility and to do justice to all manners of petitions brought before them.
Again, the public expects the tribunals to hear the petitions and determine them in accordance with the extant laws in the constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No. 21) Act, 2017.
Specifically, it provides that where a preliminary objection or any other interlocutory issue touching on the jurisdiction of the tribunal or court in any pre-election matter or on the competence of the petition itself is raised by a party, the tribunal or court shall suspend its ruling and deliver it at the stage of final judgment”.
A court in every pre-election matter shall deliver its judgment in writing within 180 days from the date of filing of the suit.
An appeal from a decision in a pre-election matter shall be filed within 14 days from the date of delivery of the judgment appealed against.
An appeal from a decision of a court in a pre-election matter shall be heard and disposed of within 60 days from the date of filing of the appeal.
Therefore, what is expected of the members of tribunals in the face of the violence and breaches of the Electoral Act that trailed the February 23 election and perhaps that which may trail the March 9 polls is justice and fairness.
More than the members of the tribunals have ever exhibited at their various Courts, the public expect them to be above board as they take on the job.
They must stick to the rules, ensure diligent adjudication and resist being manipulated or influenced by external forces. Above all, the public look up to them to deliver justice at the end of the day.
We acknowledged that members of these tribunals have a very difficult task ahead, therefore, we plead with other courts that do not have jurisdiction on post-election matters, not to compound the tribunals’ job or ridicule the Judiciary.
For instance, it is indeed, ridiculous that three days after election result were announced, a Court fell to the desperation of a politicians by granting ex-parte order stopping INEC from issuing Certificate of Return to a winner of senatorial seat, when tribunals are empanelled to handle such election matters.