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Cablegate: Nigeria: Election Tribunals (Part Ii) -

VZCZCXRO5052
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHUJA #1440/01 1871322
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 061322Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0157
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHWR/AMEMBASSY WARSAW 0424
RUEHCD/AMCONSUL CIUDAD JUAREZ 0425
RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS 7338
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 001440

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DOE FOR CAROLYN GAY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR KJUS KDEM NI ELECTIONS
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: ELECTION TRIBUNALS (PART II) -
GUBERNATORIAL CHALLENGES

REF: A. ABUJA 1397
B. ABUJA 922

ABUJA 00001440 001.2 OF 002


THIS CABLE IS SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET
DISTRIBUTION.

This cable is the second in a series on the election tribunal
process following the April 14 state and April 21 national
elections.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. The results of the April 14 gubernatorial
elections are being contested in specially established state
election tribunals (Ref. A). While most gubernatorial
election tribunals have yet to convene, petitions from
aggrieved candidates and parties, including the ruling
People's Democratic Party (PDP) and major opposition parties
All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP) and Action Congress (AC),
have been filed nation-wide. INEC refusal to surrender
elections-related materials to the tribunals is largely to
blame for the delays. Petitioners fear a repeat of 2003
election tribunals, which were plagued by delays and in the
end often dismissed the cases on technical grounds or found
the elections were substantially in line with the law.
Meanwhile, recent Supreme Court rulings on former Vice
President Atiku's candidacy and the length of term of Anambra
Governor Peter Obi have provided hope for an impartial and
fair hearing of the petitions. Moves by the Yar'adua
administration to establish a government of national unity
have further muddied the waters though, as some fear that
establishing a unity government will undermine support for
the petitions filed by Buhari and Atiku. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Three months after INEC announced winners of the
gubernatorial and presidential elections, most state election
tribunals have not begun hearing petitions due in part to
technical or procedural glitches. More so, however, the
sluggish pace of proceedings is due to the unwillingness of
the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) to surrender
elections-related materials, including tally and result
sheets, ballot papers and boxes, voter registers, and lists
of staff present at polling stations, for inspection by
petitioners. On a federal level, INEC Chairman Maurice Iwu
has maintained that because he has not been served personally
as a respondent, the INEC does not have to cooperate with the
tribunal proceedings. Plaintiffs argue that Iwu is
purposefully evading being served in order to contravene
court orders. Nonetheless, Iwu's actions have set the tone
at the state level and complainants in Edo, Ondo, Ogun, Kogi,
and Abia States (among others) allege that state INEC
resident electoral commissioners are similarly either eluding
personal service or preventing the examination of
elections-related documentation. Without access to INEC
documents or officials, petitioners cannot judiciously
proceed with their cases. Recognizing the intransigence of
certain respondents, petitioners are now approaching the
tribunals to obtain orders for substitute service to
respondents.

3. (SBU) Many petitioners fear that the 2007 election
tribunal process will be a repeat of 2003. In the aftermath
of Nigeria's 2003 gubernatorial elections, which were
considered marred by irregularities and electoral fraud, most
petitions to the election tribunals were either jettisoned on
technical grounds or the tribunals ruled that elections had
been "substantially" conducted according to the 2002
Electoral Act. Only petitions filed in Adamawa and Anambra
States, notwithstanding protracted deliberation, resulted
favorably for the plaintiffs. In the case of Adamawa State,
Boni Haruna's announcement as winner of the gubernatorial
race was initially nullified by the Adamawa Election
Tribunal, though this ruling was later overturned by the
Federal Court of Appeal which ruled that the conduct of
elections, though flawed, still complied "substantially" with
electoral laws. With respect to Anambra State, All
Progressive Grand Alliance Party (APGA) candidate Peter Obi
sought redress at the Anambra Election Tribunal, decrying as
flawed the electoral process that brought Chris Ngige to
power. The tribunal eventually upended Ngige's election and
declared Obi governor. At the national level, Buhari spent

ABUJA 00001440 002.2 OF 002


thirty months in court only to have the Supreme Court uphold
the 2003 election results.

4. (SBU) While the Federal Court of Appeal, presided over by
Justice Abdullahi Umaru, who presided over the same court in
2003 and who appoints justices to the gubernatorial election
tribunals in each of Nigeria's thirty-six states, is regarded
by some as thoroughly compromised and vulnerable to the
machinations of the Yar'adua administration, the Supreme
Court has, as of late, shown promising signs of impartiality
and fairness. On April 16, the Supreme Court ruled that INEC
has no "Constitutional power to disqualify a candidate from
contesting elections without a valid order of a court." This
ruling paved the way for Atiku's name to be placed on the
ballot on April 21. Based on the precedent set in this case,
candidates including Ibrahim Bapetel (AC, Adamawa State),
Abubakar Audu (ANPP, Kogi State), and Peter Okocha (AC, Delta
State) who were disqualified by INEC prior to the April 14
gubernatorial elections are seeking to nullify elections in
those states. Moreover, on June 14, the Supreme Court ruled
in favor of Anambra State Governor Peter Obi, contending that
his tenure as governor commenced the day of his swearing-in
-- March 10, 2006. Obi's term in office was ruled to expire
in 2010. The April 2007 elections in which Andy Uba was
declared Governor of Anambra State were therefore judged to
be null and void.

5. (SBU) Uncertainty also persists on the possible impact of
recent unity government talks on the fate of the presidential
election tribunal petitions. Press reports indicate that
talks continue between the Yar'adua administration, ANPP and
AC over the formation of a national unity government, with
all three parties maintaining that the presidential election
tribunal petitions filed by ANPP and AC need not be
withdrawn. That said, there is concern among Buhari's
supporters that a full endorsement of Yar'adua's government
by the ANPP may imperil Buhari's election tribunal petition,
leading financiers and advisors to withdraw support as they
had done in 2003. Others note that should Buhari and Atiku
consolidate their petitions, either by volition or court
directive, this would substantially fortify their position.
It remains to be seen, however, whether such a scenario is
deemed salutary to their distinct self-interests.
CAMPBELL

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