Election Tribunals Twists Featured

Sunday, 29 November 2015 00:00 Written by  Published in The Nation Read 667 times
Mama Taraba has been returned by Taraba State Election Petition Tribunal Mama Taraba has been returned by Taraba State Election Petition Tribunal



Adam Alqali examines how the various state election petition tribunals have fared so far regarding judgments delivered for disputed governorship, national and state assemblies’ elections in the 2015 general elections


In the aftermath of the March 28 and April 11 Presidential, National Assembly as well as governorship elections in Nigeria, aspirants from various political parties including the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have been in various election petition tribunals across the country trying to either regain a lost election or retain disputed victories.


Prior to all elections in Nigeria, the Election Tribunals are constituted and inaugurated to deal with anticipated issues of election petition in the forthcoming elections at both federal and state levels, as mandated by the constitution. According to the 2010 Electoral Act, election petitions must be filed and the Election Tribunals shall be constituted not later than 14 days to the election and shall open their registries for business seven days to the election.


Like all other national elections in Nigeria, the aftermath of the 2015 general elections also spurred litany of petitions around the governorship, national and state assembly elections. Among others, thus far, the state elections petition tribunals for Taraba, Enugu, Gombe, Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Enugu have delivered judgments in respect of governorship, national and state assembly elections, and some of the verdicts have generated a lot of controversies and discussions.


Based on the verdicts delivered so far by the various election petition tribunals, the opposition PDP appears to be on the losing end as most of the judgments seem to favour the ruling APC.




Rivers State


The 2015 presidential, National Assembly and governorship elections in Rivers State were marred by serious irregularities as well as violence. As such, the election was heavily criticized by both local and international observers, hence the litany of petitions by contestants in the election at the various Rivers state election petition tribunals.


Therefore, many weren’t surprised when on October 24, the Justice Suleiman Ambrosa-led Rivers State Governorship Elections Tribunal nullified the election of Governor Nyesom Wike on the ground that the election was “fraught with violence and irregularities in areas where they were held” and ordered for a fresh poll. The petition against the election of Mr Wike as the governor of Rivers State was filed by Mr Dakuku Peterside, the APC’s candidate in the March 28 Rivers state governorship election.


Moreover, on October 27, the Rivers State House of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja nullified the election of the 21 PDP members of the Rivers State House of Assembly, including its speaker, Owaji Ibani. The Tribunal also cited “violence and irregularities” as responsible for the annulment and ordered for fresh elections.


In their separate reactions, both Wike and PDP vowed to appeal the tribunal’s ruling. Gov Wike who saidthe Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal nullified his election “on the basis of INEC’s alleged infraction of its administrative guidelines on the use of card readers” added that the Tribunal had “against all legal odds and the grains of logic, decided to accord undue legal weight to the straw of statements around the use or non-use of card readers to support its decision in the face of a hopelessly bad case of the petitioners.”




Taraba State


The 2015 governorship elections in Taraba State were also shrouded in deep intrigues for which days after the election, the winner could not be ascertained. The intrigues were about who was the actual winner of the election between Arch Darius Ishaku of the PDP and Aisha Jummai Alhassan of the APC. Mr Ishaku was eventually announced as the duly elected governor of the state in the April 11 governorship elections.


However, On November 8, the Taraba State Governorship Election Tribunal sitting in Abuja nullified the election of Mr Ishaku  and declared Mrs Alhassan the winner of the April 11 governorship elections in the state on the ground that the PDP’s candidate was not “validly nominated” to contest the election and so wasn’t qualified to contest the April 11 governorship election.


Ms Alhassan had earlier on filed a case challenging the election of Ishaku as the governor of Taraba State. And while speaking to newsmen in Abuja recently, Ishaku who was at the headquarters of the opposition PDP in Abuja described the verdict of the Justice Musa Abubakar-led tribunal as “accidental discharge.”




Akwa Ibom


Akwa Ibom State governorship elections were among those that were heavily contested at the Akwa Ibom State Election Tribunal. The tribunal had on October 22 ordered for a re-run in 18 out of the 31 Local Government Areas of the state, noting that there were “discrepancies” in the conduct of the April 11 governorship election in the state.


The petition against the election of Udom Emmanuel of the Peoples Democratic Party as the governor of Akwa Ibom State was filed by Umana Umana, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress as well as his party.


Until the rerun election was conducted in the affected LGAs, no one can say for sure if Gov Emmanuel would remain in office. The affected LGAs were Etinan, Nsit Ubium, Ibiono Ibom, Uyo, Uruan, Ibesikpo Asutan, Nsit Atai, Eket, Onna and Ibeno. Others were Oron, Udung Uko, Oruk Anam, Etim Ekpo, Ikono, Ini, Nsit Ibom and Itu.


In his reaction, Gov Emmanuel said the tribunal’s verdict proved that, against the allegation of Mr Umana Umana and the APC, elections did hold in the state, adding that he remained the governor of Akwa Ibom State..




Gombe State


The 2015 governorship election in Gombe State was closely fought between the then incumbent, Ibrahim Dankwambo of the PDP and Inuwa Yahaya of the opposition APC. However, in its judgment delivered on October 14, the Justice Mohammed Suraj–led Gombe State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal affirmed the election of Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).


The APC candidate, Inuwa Yahaya, had earlier on petitioned the Tribunal over the election that returned Dankwambo as the executive governor of Gombe state, alleging that the election was characterized by electoral malpractices that could warrant the dismissal of the election.


In its ruling, the Tribunal dismissed the petition filed by the APC candidate in the 11 April governorship election for “lack of credible evidence to prove his petition” and charged the petitioner the sum of N3 500 for "deliberately attempting to defame" the tribunal.




National Assembly


The various National Assembly election petition tribunals across the country have been at work since the 2015 general elections. Some of the tribunals upheld the elections of senators and members of the House of Representatives while others annulled such elections and ordered for fresh elections. Thus far, amongst others, the National Assembly tribunals for Abia, Enugu, Ogun, Akwa-Ibom, Taraba and Kwara states have delivered judgments on cases pending before them.


Whereas other National Assembly elections petition tribunals are sitting in their respective states across the country, those for Rivers, Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states are sitting in Abuja due to security concerns in the states.


The Abia State National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Umuahia, the Abia state capital, has delivered its verdict on the election of Enyinnaya Abaribe, senator representing Abia South.


The election of Mr Abaribe, who was elected under the platform of the PDP was declared “inconclusive” and nullified as a result of irregularities in Obingwa and Ugwunagbo local government areas of the state. Abaribe’s election was challenged by Chris Nkwonta, of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA).


Similarly, the National Assembly election tribunal in Ogun State has nullified the election of Buruji Kashamu, senator representing Ogun East due to “some irregularities and anomalies” in the election that produced Kashamu and ordered a re-run in 110 polling units where irregularities were established. Kashamu’s election was challenged by Dapo Abiodun, the candidate of APC at the March 28 National Assembly elections.


On the other hand, the Kwara State National Assembly Election Tribunal sitting in Ilorin has upheld the election of Bukola Saraki, senator for Kwara central. The election of Saraki, who is also the president of the Senate, was challenged by Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, the PDP’s candidate, who claimed the election was improperly conducted.


Similarly, the election of George Thompson Sekibo, senator for Rivers West was upheld by the Justice Mu’azu Pindiga-led Rivers State National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Apo, Abuja. Sekibo’s election was challenged by Andrew Uchendu, the APC’s candidate in the March 28 National Assembly elections in Rivers State.


Moreover, the election of Ike Ekweremadu, senator for Enugu West, was upheld by the Justice Michael Edem-led Enugu State Election Petition Tribunal. The election of Ekweremadu, who is also the deputy president of the Senate, was challengedby Philip Eze, the APC’s candidate on the ground that the petitioner failed to prove his case.


In the same vein, the Akwa  Ibom State National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal has upheld the election of Godswill Akpabio, senator for Akwa-Ibom North West, who is also the minority leader of the Senate and immediate past governor of the state. The petition against Akpabio’s election was filed by the APC and its candidate, Inibehe Okori, and was dismissed by the Tribunal which held that the petitioners failed to prove that the erstwhile governor was not validly nominated by his party, PDP, to contest the March 28 National Assembly elections. 


Adam Alqali

Adam Alqali is an independent journalist whose stories have appeared
on africacheck.org, blueprint.ng andnewsdiaryonline.com. He can be
reached at aalqali@gmail.com