Election petitions: Appeal Court

No Comments » March 22nd, 2008 posted by // Categories: Elections 2007



 

NEW NIGERIAN

March 22, 2008

 

Election petitions: Appeal Court’s tardiness sets tongues wagging

From TAWEY ZAKKA

Three months of suspense over the final determination of the hotly contested governorship election petitions in the North West geopolitical zone have triggered concern and speculations over the cause of the protracted delay. Politicians in the zone are pondering over the fate of their appeals awaiting final determination since January.

A cross-section of politicians from the main contending parties -PDP, ANPP, DPP­are however unanimous in expressing concern over the continued delay by the Appeal Court to reach a decision on the pending appeals and fear that intense discreet pressure on the judges may be responsible for the delay.

The pending appeals in respect of the governorship elections in Sokoto, Kebbi and Katsina State have generated the highest tension as all parties involved in the legal tussle over the outcome of the governorship elections and the decisions of the petition tribunals regard the delay as ominous.

Politicians polled by New Nigerian on Sunday were unanimous in declaring that the Appeal Court had taken “too much time” in coming out with its verdict especially as the judicial review was not expected to be as elaborate and complicated as the original hearings into the petitions by the tribunals.

Our survey also showed that the appellants who are challenging the election of incumbent governors are more “jittery” about the disturbing suspense, especially in Sokoto where members of the DPP are alleging that the delay is the result of pressure against the likelihood of the tribunal up-turning the verdict of the lower tribunal and calling for fresh elections.

Interestingly, some of the opposition politicians were resigned to dashed hopes on the ground that the nearly one-year stay in office of the PDP government in the state courtesy of the snail speed of the wheel of justice in respect of election petitions in general not only denied justice to the appellants but empowered the PDP administration to entrench itself and dominate the environment.

They cited the outcome of the recent local government elections in the state which confirmed that the PDP administration had fully exploited the delay and denial of justice by the election petition determination machinery through state resources and patronage to impose its dominance on the entire structure of governance in the state.

In view of this, the DPP politicians are saying that even in the event that their appeal against the election of Governor Aliyu Magatakarda Wammakko succeeds at the Appeal Court, a fresh election would be ordered rather than giving the victory to the DPP candidate because the incumbency factor would again be deployed to “fix” the elections as was done with the local government elections.

Politicians in the ANPP in Sokoto were not as agitated in response to the delay in declaring an outcome of the petitions against the election of Governor Wammako and this was attributed by local analysts to the weakening of the ANPP by the decampment of Warnmako to the PDP just before the election date, an issue that forms part of the grounds for challenging Wammako’s election. The PDP politicians were generally enthusiastic that the ruling of the lower election tribunal would be upheld by the Appeal Court because the ruling was considered sound and justified as well as a true reflection of the political reality in Sokoto State.

The situation in Kebbi State is similar as the DPP politicians also express misgivings about the “unnecessary delay” in reaching a final determination of their victory before the lower election tribunal which annulled the election of Governor Saidu Dakingari and ordered fresh elections. They also fear that the delay is evidence of the “subterranean influences” targeting the Appeal Court in its judicial review ofthe case, noting that similar petitions in other states did not take as long before a final verdict was pronounced.

The theory making the rounds in political circles is that strings are being pulled to ensure a judicial soft-landing for Governor Dakingari by reversing the annulment of his eleciton as a face-saving effort which it is claimed will also take care of the Katsina governorship where higher stakes than just the PDP are said to be calling the shots, citing “home base factor”. In a worst case scenario, fresh elections rather than awarding victory by the Appeal Court is said to be favoured as the local government elections in Kebbi State proved beyond reasonable doubts that the Dakingari administration will only bounce back with similar certainty.

Meanwhile, some of the respondents drew attention to the lack of independent judicial review and decision by members of tribunals and Appeal Courts due to the “conference method” adopted by the members in reaching a decision on the cases before them.

During such conferences, the judges usually work towards a “consensus” position on the cases and so many “considerations” are factored into their deliberations, after which they agree on one of them drafting the “lead judgement”. The respondents, citing legal sources, suggested that this was the reason why dissenting opinions and independent judgments are rare in the final pronouncements of the tribunals, despite the highly contentious nature of the cases.

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