Anxiety as Nigerians begin long wait for Tribunals

The 2023 general elections are now over with the completion of the April 15 supplementary elections in 2,660 polling units (PUs) across Nigeria.

A rerun of governorship, State Assembly, senatorial and House of Representatives elections took place in 185 Local Government Areas in over 20 states following violence, cancelled votes, late arrival of materials, etc.

The States include Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Niger, Ogun, Oyo, Rivers, Taraba, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara.

Earlier, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conducted presidential and National Assembly elections on February 25, while state elections were held on March 18, one week after the original date.

INEC remains in the eye of the storm as a cross-section of Nigerians maintain it contributed to the controversial outcome of the presidential election and that of governorship in some states.

They contend that the malfunction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the failure to timely update the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) was a breach.

Professor Mahmood Yakubu had promised the results would be uploaded in real-time as it was during the July 16 gubernatorial election in Osun.

At a media briefing in November 2022, the INEC chairman dismissed reports that the commission was planning to jettison transmission from PUs.

“The commission will upload polling unit level results and citizens will have access to those results in real-time. This innovation was introduced by the commission, the commission cannot undermine itself,” he noted.

But that did not happen in its entirety, especially during the presidential contest, where results were uploaded even after Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was declared winner on March 1.

On February 27, a report by the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) joint observation mission declared that INEC lacked transparency.

Days later, FixPolitics, a movement led by a former Minister, Oby Ezekwesili, said the disputed results have made the populace to resent INEC, question the integrity of the ballot and the process.

In a chat with DAILY POST, a citizen close to the commission revealed the efforts by the IT department to keep the IReV portal up while the presidential election was going on.

“The results were uploaded without problems until late afternoon when continuous glitches were observed. INEC technicians, who were also at the national collation centre in Abuja, commenced work on the site.

“That took about two hours but by then, Nigerians, officers on the field and agents were understandably in a panic mode. If you remember, the site came up again and more results were uploaded.

“I agree that INEC should have handled communication better. I also believe they wanted to deliver the best election but you cannot rule out human errors, questionable staff, politicians and security personnel,” he said.

The source also spoke on BVAS and the transfer of ex-INEC Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Director, Chidi Nwafor to Enugu as the Administrative Secretary before the election.

“Those linking Chidi and BVAS are not informed; it was not a one-man invention. He and the ICT team developed the system, so other engineers know everything about it.

“The good thing is that the contents of BVAS are safe and secure, meaning a number of aggrieved candidates will be able to successfully prove their cases in court.”

In his contribution, a legal practitioner, Festus Ogun told DAILY POST that the general elections “leave quite a lot to be desired”.

“As an election lawyer and a citizen, the level of inefficiencies in the conduct is unprecedented. INEC under-delivered and didn’t meet the expectations of Nigerians.

“Clearly, as a result of the failure on the part of INEC to conduct a free, fair, transparent and credible election, the duty has shifted to our tribunals,” the rights activist added.

But Nigerians keeping track are concerned about the seeming delay at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) and the State Election Petition Tribunals who can remove elected candidates even after inauguration.

According to the Electoral Act, 2022, Section 132 (7) & (8), petitions must be filed within 21 days after declaration of results; the tribunals are to deliver judgments within six months from the petition date.

At the Court of Appeal in Abuja, the PEPT secretariat, five standard bearers and their parties have filed separate petitions against Tinubu and the APC.

They are Nnadi Osita, Action Peoples Party (APP); Solomon Okangbuan, Action Alliance (AA); Chichi Ojei, Allied Peoples Movement (APM); Peter Obi, Labour Party (LP), and Atiku Abubakar, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The issues raised border on alleged exclusion of Okanigbuan’s name on the ballot, Tinubu’s education background, alleged age falsification and drug trafficking indictment in the United States of America.

Others are Section 134 of the 1999 Constitution (25 percent of votes in the FCT); a candidate standing for presidential election but also earlier a senatorial candidate (VP-elect Kashim Shettima). Shettima replaced the placeholder, Kabiru Masari.

The President-elect, the ruling party, and INEC have responded to all arguments, while the nation and the international community await the tribunal to start day-to-day hearing.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), legal luminary, Femi Falana (SAN), parties and stakeholders have called for a live broadcast of the proceedings.

In his opinion, Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) stated that the presidential tribunal could conclude hearings within seven days if the court systems are proactive.



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