Appeal Court transfers election petition appeals to Abuja, Lagos
President of Nigeria’s Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, has transferred all election petition cases pending before the court in the 36 states to Abuja and Lagos divisions of the appellate court.
This was done in a bid to curtail political interference in the dispensation of justice.
This implies that all appellate cases arising from the judgements of the various election petition tribunals in the 36 states of the country would be heard and determined in Abuja and Lagos divisions of the Appeal Court.
By this action of Dongban-Mensem, only two of the 20 divisions of the court would determine all appellate cases arising from the judgements of the elections petition tribunals throughout the country.
The order affects gubernatorial, national and state assemblies’ elections, which have the court of appeal as the last court of adjudication.
Leadership newspaper quoted a Court of Appeal source to have said that all appellate cases arising from the judgements of the election petitions tribunals on the 1,209 cases filed against the conduct of 2023 general elections had been assigned to Abuja and Lagos for hearing and determination.
Already, all political parties and their candidates, having pending appeal cases have been directed to comply with the order by moving to either Lagos or Abuja as the case may be to prosecute their cases.
Leadership said Dongban-Mensem acted in response to an avalanche of petitions and protests by political parties and their candidates, who allege that the judges of the tribunals were heavily compromised by the governors during the trial stage in their respective states.
The governing party, All Progressives Congress (APC), and two opposition platforms, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP), and their aggrieved candidates in their various petitions and protests to the leadership of the Court of Appeal alleged that the judges of the tribunals became vulnerable as governors generously provided logistics and other support for them to ease the discharge of their assignments.
The aggrieved parties and the candidates protested that various judgements pronounced by some of the tribunal judges were not only fraudulent but were “outrightly purchased” by the governors in favour of their parties and candidates in the election.
The medium quoted sources to have said that the appellants in the various cases expressed apprehension that the same fate might befall them if their cases are allowed to be determined by the other 18 divisions of the Court of Appeal domiciled in various states under the watch of the governors of the states.
The sources said the leadership of the appellate court was persuaded to move against the governors by relocating the cases to Abuja and Lagos, where the judges could be effectively monitored by the president of the appellate court.
Perturbed by the revelations, Dongban-Mensem was reported to have launched discreet enquiries into the allegations against the governors and the judges of the trial tribunal.
It was gathered that enquiries established the veracity of the allegations to the extent that an unholy alliance was established between some governors and judges of the tribunals, which led to perversion of justice at the trial level.
Some judges of the tribunals were reportedly indicted and might face trial by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
Subsequently, Dongban-Mensem, ordered an immediate transfer of all election appellate cases to Abuja and Lagos.
To this end, all appellate cases in the 19 northern states of the country are to be heard and determined by the Abuja division of the court.
Similarly, those cases emanating from grievances over the judgement of the election petition tribunals in the 17 states of southern Nigeria are to be treated by the Lagos division of the court.
Leadership however said it could not verify from official sources how the two divisions could effectively handle and cope with the volume of cases expected from the 36 states of the country.
It could also not ascertain if appellate cases in Lagos state would also be handled by Lagos division of the Court of Appeal in view of the protests by PDP and LP as well as their candidates in the March 2023 gubernatorial, national and state assembly elections over alleged compromise of the various election petition tribunals assigned to the state by the state government.
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