A ballot box filled with ballot is pictured before being counted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at a polling station in Yenagoa in Bayelsa State ~ PIUS UTOMI EKPEI
Ikeja - The Lagos State National and State
Houses of Assembly Elections Petition Tribunal has warned lawyers that it would
not tolerate strategies aimed at delaying the expeditious determination of
The Tribunal Chairman, Justice Sylvanus Oriji, gave the
warning on Tuesday at the inaugural sitting of the tribunal in Ikeja.
Other members of the three-man tribunal are Justices K. Dabo
and Kadi Yusuf.
It is reported that more than
thirty petitions, arising from the 2015 National Assembly and Lagos State House
of Assembly elections, have been filed before the tribunal.
Oriji emphasiszed that election petitions were delicate and
sensitive to handle because they must be heard and determined within 180 days
as specified by Section 285 (6) of the 1999 Constitution.
He said: "It is now well established that any judgment
delivered by an Election Tribunal in an election petition after 180 days from
the date of filing is a nullity.
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"It is for this reason that we implore you all to give the
tribunal the necessary support and co-operation, both at the pre-hearing
conferences and throughout the hearing of the petitions.
"Without your co-operation, it will be difficult for the
tribunal to succeed in its onerous task to conclude all the pending election
petitions within 180 days as stipulated by the Constitution.
"In this regard, the tribunal will not tolerate any action
or omission (or strategy) aimed at delaying or frustrating the expeditious
hearing and determination of the petitions."
According to him, the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010,
especially the First Schedule, clearly stated the terms for taking procedural
steps to ensure the speedy hearing and determination of petitions.
Oriji said in conducting their matters before the tribunal,
lawyers should by guided by the rules of professional conduct for legal
practitioners and show respect to the Bench and their colleagues.
The judge also advised the media to report the proceedings
of the tribunal accurately, adding that the members of the panel would
discharge their duties "without fear or favour’’.
He said: "Finally,it is a common saying that the interests
and stakes in political matters (such as election petitions) are very high.
"Whilst this may be true, we must always bear in mind that
the stake and interest of this tribunal; and indeed the Nigerian judiciary, to
do justice to all, are higher than the interest of any individual."
Responding on behalf of the lawyers, Mr Ademola Sadiq,
assured the tribunal that all the admonitions given by the judge would be
strictly adhered to in the interest of justice.
Sadiq also appealed to the media to report the proceedings
before the tribunal accurately, and to verify their facts before going to