With the commencement of hearing on the presidential election dispute at the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal sitting at the Court of Appeal in Abuja, hearing has also commenced in all the appeals in respect of the election.
During the inaugural sitting of the presidential tribunal on May 6, the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, disclosed that 786 petitions had been filed nationwide as a result of the February 23, Presidential/National Assembly and March 9 governorship and state assemblies elections, including the supplementary elections that followed.
Justice Bulkachuwa disclosed that in the exercise of her constitutional powers, she had already constituted the various election petition tribunals for speedy judgements across the 36 states and the FCT, with 78 panels set up across the states, excluding Jigawa State where no election petition had been filed.
For the first time, the Court of Appeal conducted three different training programmes for judges appointed as members of the election petition tribunals and staff of the tribunals.
Following the inauguration of the 250 members of the election petitions tribunal at the Supreme Court on January 26, the Court of Appeal on February 12, organised a training for them in conjunction with US-based International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).
During the event, Justice Bulkachuwa informed the judges that she would not hesitate to descend on any of them found wanting in the discharge of their duties.
Again, the Court of Appeal on March 20, organised another training for members of the court and the election petition tribunals. The PCA warned the judges that they were being monitored closely to ensure they were not found wanting in the discharge of their duties.
Also, on March 25, the Court of Appeal trained registrars and secretaries who would serv with judges of the tribunals across the federation.
The officials were exposed to the relevant skills and laws necessary for the discharge of their duties. They were trained on the Electoral Act, Practice Direction and Ethics of Tribunal Secretaries.
“Like I have said before, each and every one of you will be closely monitored by my office and I will not hesitate to descend on any judge found wanting in the discharge of his or her duty,” she said.
“By the end of this induction training, you will all be abreast with what is expected of you and I am sure by the time you resume your duty posts you will be ready to carry out the tasks assiduously.”
Also, the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammed, during the inauguration of 13 outstanding judges of the election petitions tribunal, charged them to be of good character and endeavour to live above board, as all eyes are on them with a view to seeing them dispense justice without a tinge of partiality or favouritism.
Justice Muhammad admonished the new tribunal members to guard their jobs jealously, explaining that they were “thoroughly examined and later fished out from the numerous judges in the country who are equally eminently qualified for this task.”
The list has: Justices A.O. Onovo, R.O. Odugu, S.B. Belgore, T.A.O. Oyekan-Abullai, A.J. Coker, and E.I. Oritsejafor. Others are Justices M.C. Okoh, O.S. Olusanya, C.A. Ononeze-Madu, P.U. Nnodum and J.C.L. Okibe. Two members: Justices I.O. Kasali and M.O. Obadina could not attend the event.
The Court of Appeal also embarked on refurbishment of the courtrooms for the presidential election tribunal to make it conducive for the lawyers an litigants that would throng the court for the hearing of the petitions.
The petitions at the presidential tribunal include the PDP and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar, against the election of the APC candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, alleging widespread irregularities and substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act.
There are other petitions: Ambrose Owuru of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP); Geff Chizee Ojinka of the Coalition for Change (CC); and Aminchi Habu of the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM).