The President of the Court of Appeal (PCA), Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, has said the various election tribunals set up to handle disputes that may arise from the March 28 and April 11 elections are currently being handicapped owing to the non-release of funds by the Federal Government.
She said the 77 tribunals, made up of 255 members, inaugurated since February 2, 2015 had to rely on the assistance of foreign donors to function. She said their duties would be hampered with the continued delay in the release of funds for their operations.
Also, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed, said the judiciary would resist any attempt by vested interests to manipulate it to attain selfish ends.
According to Justice Mohammed, the judiciary was ready to hear cases dispassionately and dispense justice without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.
Justices Mohammed and Bulkachuwa spoke in Abuja yesterday when the Deputy Chief Observer, Ms Hannah Roberts, and the Legal Analyst, Ms Eirini-Marie Gounari of the European Union Election Observation Mission Nigeria 2015, paid the CJN a courtesy visit in his office.
Media aide to the CJN, Ahurakah Isah, in a statement, quoted the PCA as saying that the Court of Appeal had been depending on some foreign donors such as the International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support the training activities, compilation of a digest of decided electoral cases since the money budgeted for the elections petition tribunal activities is yet to be disbursed.
Justice Bulkachuwa explained that the panel chairmen and members had undergone training and would be posted to their respective states next week where they are expected to serve.
“Apart from the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal panel, there will be at least two panels per state and one for the Federal Capital Territory, while some will be put on reserve in case there is need to add more in some states. Governorship election will not hold in six states, namely: Kogi, Osun, Ekiti, Bayelsa, Ondo and Edo and, therefore, there will be no Governorship Election Petition Tribunal panels in those states.
“However, we are experiencing challenges in Rivers State where there is no Chief Judge at present to take responsibility of the panel posted to that state. Besides, the chief judges of Yobe, Adamawa and Borno states have said that they won’t be able to guarantee the safety of the panel members due to security challenges in their respective states and advised that the panels for their states be made to sit elsewhere”, the PCA said.
The CJN said: “The judiciary, as an independent arbiter and interpreter of law has an immeasurable role to play under the 1999 Constitution (as amended) for the stability of democracy in Nigeria. I wish to assure the international community and indeed all Nigerians that the courts are not only ready to carry out these responsibilities, but will do so without being manipulated to compromise the elections”.