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Cablegate: Nigeria: Election Tribunals (Part I)

VZCZCXRO1256
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHUJA #1397/01 1831610
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 021610Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0096
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHWR/AMEMBASSY WARSAW 0416
RUEHCD/AMCONSUL CIUDAD JUAREZ 0417
RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS 7287
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 001397

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR KJUS KDEM NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: ELECTION TRIBUNALS (PART I)

REF: ABUJA 922

ABUJA 00001397 001.2 OF 002


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

This cable provides background information addressing the
election tribunal process resulting from grievances to the
April 2007 gubernatorial, presidential, and legislative
elections in Nigeria.

1. According to the Nigerian Constitution and 2006 Electoral
Act, any aggrieved political party or candidate may contest
the conduct or result of the April elections, including the
gubernatorial and presidential races. Special election
tribunals, located in the Federal Court of Appeal for the
presidential election and in the State Court of Appeal for
the gubernatorial election, have been established in the
thirty six states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to
entertain petitions. Should these election tribunals
jettison any case on legal or technical grounds, the
Electoral Act permits appellate courts, including the Supreme
Court for the presidential race and the High Court for
gubernatorial races, to hear the affected cases.

2. The President of the Federal Court of Appeal, Justice
Abdullahi Umaru, appoints members of all election tribunals.
At the federal level, cases are presided over by a Chief
Magistrate and four other magistrates of the FCT Judiciary;
at the state level, the Chief Magistrate of each of the
thirty-six states submits names of two other serving judges
to Justice Umaru for security vetting. Tribunal magistrates
are posted to states other that their respective states of
origin.

3. Petitioners, either individual candidates or political
parties participating in the elections, receive up to thirty
days from the announcement of election results to file their
complaints with the respective tribunals. According to
Section 145 of the Electoral Act, petitions may be filed on
the following grounds:

-- That a person whose election is questioned was, at the
time of the election, not qualified to contest the election;

-- That the election was invalid by reason of corrupt
practices or non-compliance with the provisions of the
Electoral Act;

-- That the announced winner of the election was not duly
elected by a majority of lawful votes cast at the election; or

-- That the petitioner or aggrieved candidate was validly
nominated but was unlawfully excluded from the election.

4. Importantly, Section 146 (1) states that elections may
not be invalidated or nullified if the election tribunal
determines that elections were conducted "substantially" in
accordance with the Electoral Act. The Electoral Act,
Section 148 is equally ambiguous as to the time limit for
which the election tribunals may entertain cases, noting only
that such cases "shall be given accelerated hearing."

5. Ultimately, the election tribunals may dismiss any case.
The courts may also choose to upend election results, thereby
calling for fresh elections no later than 3 months after the
court determines that new elections should be held or
announcing as winner the candidate who scored the highest
number of valid votes. The election tribunals may nullify
elections based on the following grounds:

-- That a candidate who was declared the victor was not
validly elected; or

-- That a candidate who was declared the victor was not
validly elected on the ground that he did not receive the
majority of valid votes cast at the election.

6. In addition to specifying the parties or candidates
interested in presenting a petition before the election
tribunals, petitioners must also conclude their petitions
with a "prayer or prayers" according to the Electoral Act.
Examples of prayers include that the petitioner "be declared

ABUJA 00001397 002.2 OF 002


validly elected or returned, having polled the highest number
of lawful votes cast at the election or that the election may
be declared nullified." Petitions must be accompanied by a
list of witnesses the petition intends to call and a list of
documents petitioners will rely upon at the actual hearing of
the petition. Petitioners may approach the election tribunal
to "compel" INEC to allow them to inspect vital
elections-related documentation, including tally and result
sheets, ballot papers, copies of voter registers, and lists
of staff employed at polling stations during the April
elections.

7. (SBU) Petitions from aggrieved candidates or political
parties, including main opposition presidential candidates
Muhammadu Buhari (ANPP) and Atiku Abubakar (AC), have been
filed across Nigeria's thirty-six states and the FCT. Almost
three months after INEC announced winners of the April
gubernatorial and presidential elections, most election
tribunals throughout Nigeria have yet to convene.
Complainants fear that the ambiguity and interpretive
latitude inherent in the 2006 Electoral Act, which neither
stipulates a time limit for cases to be heard nor defines the
extent to which elections must be proven to have been
conducted irregularly to warrant nullification of results,
may inhibit their ability to receive a truly free trial.
Skepticism also abounds as to the nonpartisan, independent
nature of the Federal Court of Appeal, which some regard as
thoroughly compromised.
CAMPBELL

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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