FEARS that the recently-concluded Edo State gubernatorial polls could be followed by a costly and lengthy legal battle have grown after the elections petitions tribunal opened its secretariat at the Benin high court complex.
On Saturday Edo State went to the polls to elect a new governor in what was a bitter contest between the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki was originally elected on the APC platform in 2016 but after falling out with former party chairman Adams Oshiomhole, leading to the party selecting Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu as its candidate, he decamped to the opposition PDP.
Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec), declared Governor Obaseki the winner of the elections on Sunday morning with 307,955 votes to Pastor Ize-Iyamu’s 223,619 votes. Governor Obaseki won in 13 of the 18 local government areas of Edo State, receiving 59% of the vote.
President Muhammadu Buhari has already conceded defeat, accepting that his APC lost the election, congratulating Governor Obaseki. However, the local chapter of the APC in Edo State has refused to sheath its sword, accusing Governor Obaseki of manipulating Saturday’s elections.
Now that the Edo State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal has been opened to receive petitions, pundits are waiting to see if Pastor Ize-Iyamu will file a formal petition. Sunday Martins, the secretary to the tribunal, said that the high court complex in Benin, the Edo State capital, had been designated as the venue of the exercise.
Mr Martins added: “The general public is hereby put on notice that the honourable president of the Court of Appeal of Nigeria Hon Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem has established the Election Petitions Tribunal Secretariat and accordingly constituted a panel in respect of the governorship election conducted in Edo State. The honourable chief judge of the state, Hon Justice EA Edigin, has graciously approved the use of High Court Complex, Sapele Road, Benin City for the tribunal exercise.”
Aggrieved candidates and political parties who were dissatisfied with the outcome of Saturday’s election have 21 days to file their petition at the tribunal’s secretariat. Justice Dongban-Mensem has in line with her statutory powers, constituted judges to serve on the election petition tribunals for the governorship elections in Edo State and the forthcoming poll in Ondo State, as well as other legislative elections in different parts of the country.
Ahead of the polls, the chief justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, had on September 10, 2020 sworn in 85 judges to serve on the tribunals to adjudicate on disputes arising from the polls. If litigants are unhappy with the verdict of the tribunal, they can then appeal to the Nigerian Supreme Court, where Justice Tanko will preside over a final arbitration on their case.