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Tribunal’s ‘Delayed’ Judgment Date Causes Anxiety in Nigeria

Over two weeks after all parties made their final arguments in the petitions challenging the victory of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Nigerians have grown apprehensive over what they regard as a delay by the tribunal to deliver judgment or at least set a date to deliver judgment.

The perceived delay may have been interpreted to mean different things. While some allege it was a ploy to tinker with the verdict, some others argue that the tribunal needed time to critically study the arguments of the parties in the dispute.

Some of those who spoke to BusinessDaySunday said that was the economic crisis and the rising cost-of-living crisis in the country that may have raised interest in whatever verdict the tribunal may deliver.

This, they said, was the reason for the increased campaign on social media platforms and billboards with the inscription, “All Eyes on the Judiciary.”

Some of those who shared their concerns with BusinessDay and via social media said the delay was unnecessary, alleging move to deny justice.

These fears and growing anxiety are largely due to the trust deficit Nigerians have for the judiciary system in Nigeria. A 2022 survey on citizens’ perceptions on governance in Nigeria by Anvarie Tech and ResearcherNG and Bincika Insights found that about 71 percent of Nigerians lack trust in the Judiciary.

The Presidential Petitions Tribunal is now seen as a test on the integrity of the judiciary. The #AllEyesOnTheJudiciary continues to trend on social media. Nigerians want to see an impartial, undisputable judgment from the five-man panel of judges led by Justice Haruna Tsammani.

There are also some pockets of concerns that the outcome of the judgment may spark crisis, especially if perceived to be partial.

“Justice Tsamani is delaying the date of the judgment of the presidential election tribunal because of presumably two things: He and his colleagues want to stand with the Constitution and are ready to give undisputed judgment based on the evidence provided by the respondents devoid of technicalities. He and his colleagues are looking for technicalities to undermine the institution called judiciary because of Bola Tinubu,” @omoelerinjare wrote on his twitter handle.

“Anyway they go, we be here waiting for them, they can decide their actions but I am sure they have not sat down to envisage our reactions” he further said.

Another Nigerian, @chucksericR wrote, “What exactly is Presidential Election Tribunal afraid of? What are they waiting for to announce the Final Judgment Date?”

“Of all the hardships Nigerians currently face, none is more punishing than the never-ending wait for Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) to deliver judgment.”

“Justice delayed is justice denied”@memzem2 wrote.

@DecUche decried that, “It took Ukraine’s court 12 days to nullify its presidential election. It took Austrian court a few days to nullify its presidential election. It took Kenya’s court 14 days to nullify its presidential election,” and what’s the Tribunal to set a date?”

For Emmanuel David, a business man in Abuja, Tribunal ought to set a date for judgment to ease Nigerians’ tension, but he said the delay can be tolerated if the judgment is fair.

On August. 2023, all parties including the Labour Party and its presidential candidate; the People’s Democratic Party and its presidential candidate, the legal team of the Independent National Electoral Commission, the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu and Kashim Shettima adopted their final ritten addresses.

After which, the tribunal reserved judgment and declared that a date for judgment would be communicated to all parties.

According to statutory provision, election petitions must be heard and determined within 180 days from the day of filing. The tribunal, is therefore, expected to deliver judgment on or before September 16.

Both Obi and Atiku, are their petitions, praying the court to nullify Tinubu’s victory and declare them president.

The key issues as contained in their petition before the court include: On compliance of the INEC to the electoral laws especially regarding the deployment of technology to ensure transparent process and other electoral fraud in favour of President Tinubu; Tinubu’s forfeiture of $460,000 for narcotics, trafficking and money laundering and alleged certificate forgery; failure to secure 25% in the FCT; double nomination of vice president, Kashim Shettima.

Although the Supreme Court had delivered judgment on Shettima’s double nomination, the Allied Peoples Movement (APM), whose petition before the tribunal is anchored solely on the nomination of Shettima, however said the judgment did not touch the grounds of their case. The court will deliver judgment on the final day.
On the 25%, all respondents argued that the FCT should be treated as a state. They argued that e-transmission of result using the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System is not part of the collation process, but just a process to enhance credibility; and that the glitch suffered did not impact on the election.

They argued that Tinubu’s forfeiture is civil and not a criminal case.

In their defence , the Labour Party and its presidential candidate called a total of 13 witnesses and presented several electoral documents duly certified by the Independent National Electoral Commission, including 18,000 blurred result sheets, while Atiku Abubakar on presented 27 witnesses.

The tribunal will consider all evidences and arguments before it and deliver its final judgment.

Source : Business Day