NBA-SPIDEL queries Edo CJ’s motive over refusal to constitute proper Election Tribunal
The Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL) has queried the motive behind the Edo state chief Judge’s failure to constitute the Election Tribunal in accordance with the Law.
Ina statement made available to BarristerNG on Wednesday, the section urged the chief judge to use his good office and promote justice to all.
Read the full press release below
THE FAILURE, NEGLECT AND/OR REFUSAL OF THE HONOURABLE, THE CHIEF JUDGE OF EDO STATE, HONOURABLE JUSTICE D. I. OKUNGBOWA TO LAWFULLY CONSTITUTE THE ELECTION TRIBUNAL(S) IN EDO STATE IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PROVISIONS OF THE EXTANT LAW: A CALCULATED OR AN INNOCOUS ACTION?
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The Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL), is the Section of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), dedicated to promoting the rule of law, economic development, and the growth of public interest law in Nigeria. Our vision is to make public interest and development law an integral part of our national life and development, ensuring due observance of the rule of law, checking the abuse of office and acts of impunities by public agencies and advocating for the advancement of law and its application to the development of public institutions and the society.
Thus, NBA-SPIDEL has taken due notice of the confounding reports from Edo State of the somewhat neglect of the office of the Honourable Chief Judge of Edo State to mandatorily constitute the 5-man election tribunal(s) as compelled by the provisions of section 78 of the Edo State Local Government Electoral Law and the Edo State Independent Electoral Commission Establishment Law. For the avoidance of doubt and ease of reference, section 78 is hereby reproduced;
1. “There shall be established for the State one or more election tribunal to be known as Local Government Election Tribunal which shall to the exclusion of any court or tribunal have original jurisdiction to hear and determine petitions as to whether any person has been validly elected to the office of chairman or vice chairman or councilor.
2. The composition of the election tribunal shall be made by the Chief Judge in consultation with the President of the Customary Court of Appeal (presently, there is no President of the Customary Court of Appeal in Edo State).
3. The tribunal shall be a judicial tribunal of five members including the Chairman and four other members.
The report before us indicates that the Honourable Chief Judge was said to have by a press release dated the 31st day of August, 2023 and signed by B. O. Osawaru, Esq. Chief Registrar of the Edo State High Court constituted the Edo State Local Government Election Petition Tribunal to be chaired by Honourable Justice A. T. Momodu. Sadly and perplexingly, the Election Tribunal constituted vide the said press release is made up of only the chairman, Hon. Justice A. T. Momodu and 2 other members only. Sadder still and most tragic, is the fact that the press release made reference to section 78(2) of the extant law, yet, the supposed constitution of the election tribunal was in total disregard to the letters of the law!
Furthermore, it is a known fact that the Local Government Election was held on the 1st of September, 2023, and that section 85(1) of the Edo State Local Government Electoral Law limited the time within which a petitioner is statutorily required to file his/her petition at the election tribunal. For the avoidance of doubt, section 85(1) provides that “an election petition shall be presented within 30 days from the date on which the result is announced.” As of today, the 19th day of September, 2023, there is no election petition tribunal in Edo State that is, 18 days after the announcement of the election results, and 14 days to the close of the statutorily window within which to present a petition before the tribunal.
NBA-SPIDEL investigations also confirmed that there is no registry of the election tribunal that has been opened to the public anywhere in Edo State as of this moment. Therefore, no petition has been filed to the best of our knowledge to challenge any of the declared results in Edo State.
NBA-SPIDEL does not want to believe that this is a calculated attempt to short-circuit the electoral process or abridge the rights of voters and candidates with subterfuge. NBA-SPIDEL does not also want to believe that the very Honourable office of the Chief Judge that is draped with so much diligence, vigilance and knowledge of the law, would miss the clear wordings in section 78 that prescribed a five (5) man tribunal as to ab inito constitute an illegal tribunal. That is our dilemma.
NBA-SPIDEL therefore call on the Honourable, the Chief Judge of Edo State, Hon. Justice D. I. Okungbowa to, as a matter of urgency and in the overall interest of the good people of Edo State constitute proper election petition tribunals immediately in accordance with the clear provisions of section 78 of the Edo State Election Law. The people, the constitution, the legal profession and rule of law expects no less from the Honourable, the Chief Judge. We have no doubt however, that the Honourable Chief Judge will do the needful in the interest of the people of Edo State and in the protection of the rule of law as a judicial officer guided by the extant code of conduct of the National Judicial Council, and the respect for the oath of office solemnly subscribed to by his very Honourable self.
Permit us to observe that constituting a single tribunal to handle all petitions from the entire state is akin to stifling access to justice. We strongly suggest most humbly therefore that tribunals be constituted for each senatorial district of Edo State. Much time has been lost, but with good faith and deliberate actions, much can be salvaged.
Dated this 19th day of September, 2023.