By Dapo Akinrefon
WITH the conduct of the 2015 general elections over, the losers have sought redress at the respective Election Petition Tribunals set up across the federation.
It has been argued that the electoral process in Nigeria is generally characterised and fraught with fraudulent practices.
Political parties in the country have been fingered as been the culprits of the fraudulent antics.
In an effort to check the ugly menace, the National Assembly enacted the 2010 Electoral Act with special provision on election timeline for voting, counting, and declaration of results.
The National Assembly also ensured redress is gotten through expeditious trial.
The move was aimed at nipping in the bud the unabated delay, by petitioners, in getting redress in court.
Though, former President Goodluck Jonathan, who conceded defeat following his defeat by President Muhammadu Buhari at the March 28 Presidential elections ruled out the possibility of litigation.
But, other candidates, who contested on various platforms are optimistic that the outcome will be in their favour.
Interestingly, the various tribunals across the six geopolitical zones of the country have been receiving petitions filed by aggrieved candidates in the governorship, national/state assembly elections.
Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, specifically provided for petitions to be entered before the tribunal, 21 days from the day the final result was declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
As a matter of fact, no fewer than 297 petitions arising from the recent 2015 general elections have so far been filed before the various election tribunals across the country.
In the South West geo-political zone, aggrieved candidates have besieged the election tribunals with their petitions.
In the region, petitions are presently being heard on governorship elections conducted in Lagos, Ogun and Oyo States.
In Oyo State, the candidate of Accord Party in the state, Senator Rasheed Ladoja decried the outcome of the governorship election.
He has since approached the tribunal to upturn the victory of Governor Abiola Ajimobi and declare him winner of the election.
At the inauguration sitting of the National and state Houses of Assembly election tribunal in the state, the Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice J.G. Abunsaga said that the tribunal received 36 petitions in respect of results of elections into the National Assembly and state House of Assembly in the state.
Breaking it down, Justice Abunsaga said that two and 10 petitions were received for senatorial election and House of Representatives respectively, while 24 were for the state House of Assembly.
For the Lagos State governorship candidate of the PDP, Mr Jimi Agbaje, he is seeking the nullification of Governor Akinwumi Ambode’s election over alleged irregularities.
Though Agbaje was not keen on pursuing the case at the tribunal, the state chapter of the PDP felt it was imperative it took the case up, perhaps to fulfil all righteousness.
National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly candidates of respective political parties, who hold the view that the outcome of the elections was fraught with irregularities have approached the courts for redress.
So far, the petitioners in the region have submitted their requests but the entreaties seem not to be getting much attention.
Section 285(6) and (7) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) provides that (6) “An election tribunal shall deliver its judgement in writing within 180 days from the date of the filing of the petition.” A similar restriction placed by subsection (7) of Section 285 of the Constitution provides that “An appeal from a decision of the election tribunal or court shall be heard and disposed off within 60 days from the date of the delivery of judgement”.
Also Section 134(2) and (3) of the Electoral Act 2010 can be construed to mean that while an election tribunal has no power whatsoever to sit beyond 180 days from the date of the filing of the petition; the Appeal Court in an election matter has no jurisdiction to entertain an appeal beyond 60 days from the date of the delivery of judgement of the tribunal appealed against.
Thus, by implication, once an election petition is filed, or an appeal is lodged against the decision of an election tribunal, both the petitioner/appellant, the respondents themselves as well as the tribunal itself would be counting days and dates because the matter should be determined on or before the expiration of the duration prescribed by, Sections 285 (6) and (7) of the Constitution and 134(2) and (3) of the Electoral Act.
The huge cost of prosecuting cases at the tribunal, has made some drop the idea of heading to court to seek redress.