The President of the Court of Appeal (PCA), Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem has warned officials deployed to election tribunals against compromising the process. She urged the 350 officials to see their deployment as a call to serve their fatherland and not an opportunity for self-enrichment.
She warned that any of them found to have compromised the system in any form will not only be recalled and relieved of his/her service but will be prosecuted as recommended by the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC).
The PCA spoke in Abuja at a two-day capacity-building workshop for those who will serve as registrars, secretaries and others officials of the election tribunals.
She said: “It is part of your obligation to discharge your duties with utmost good faith and not be carried away by little advances.
“Your integrity and that of the tribunal, and its members are in the public searchlight; you must therefore ensure you are not used as weapons to truncate the process.
“Ensure to live above boards so that you will not put the Judiciary into disrepute.
“Do not see it as an opportunity to make money to enrich yourselves, but rather, go there to build your name and your future as it is literally said that a good name is better than silver and gold.
“The court will not hesitate to deal with anyone found wanting in this regard.
“It is equally important to remind you that you must constantly relate with the Election Petition Tribunal Unit at the Headquarters at intervals and report matters you are uncertain about to forestall breaches in communication.
“For the sake of emphasis, it is important to state that petitions before the tribunals are time bound.
“It is therefore your utmost responsibility to ensure processes are properly and timely filed once they are brought to the Registry to forestall administrative injustice to the Parties before such matters are adjudicated.
“You must count yourselves worthy to have been chosen to perform in this regard.
“Our choice is premised on trust, competence and confidence the court has in you, which I pray you do not erode while discharging your duties at the tribunal.
“Let me, once again, mention that the work ahead is enormous and you must indeed brace up for the challenges ahead,” the PCA said.
She stressed the importance of functional registries to the effectiveness of election tribunals and noted that the training was intended to arm the officials for the task ahead.
Justice Dongban-Mensem added: “The Registry is a very important organ of an Election Petition Tribunal and its administrative duties include the receipt of the petition and other court processes for filing, service of court processes timeously on parties, issuance of hearing notices, preparation of court proceedings and orders, custody and safekeeping of the tribunals’ documents, a compilation of records among various other duties and responsibilities.
“The effectiveness, quality, efficiency, transparency and speed of the Registry has a direct impact on the performance and justice delivery of the election tribunal.
“The theme of this workshop: ‘Challenges arising from election petition tribunal and the way forward’ emerged from a pensive analysis of past experiences.
“We seek to highlight the various challenges associated with the tribunals and adequately brazen you up against them.
“As you are well aware, elections play a very vital role in a democratic system of government as it gives the citizens the chance to choose their leaders.
“Election, like all facets of human endeavours, witnesses its own shortcomings as the conduct of the election processes may come with one or two hitches and problems that subsequently affect outcomes of such a process.
“The need to correct the problems encountered in the electoral process brought about the birth of the election tribunal which has been adequately provided for in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and the Electoral Act, 2022, (as amended).
“They (election tribunals) are established for the purposes of determining disputes arising from the conduct of election of elections into the various elective positions.”
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu, hailed the PCA for the initiative, which he described as the first in the nation’s electoral history.
Yakubu, represented by the National Commissioner in charge of Legal Services, Mrs. May Agbamuche-Mbu, urged the court officials not to betray the trust placed on them by the authorities of the Court of Appeal.
Yakubu assured that his commission was committed to delivering a free, fair and credible election this year.
Country Director of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), Seray Jah, commended the PCA for organising training for the tribunal officials and urged them to resist the temptation to compromise the system.
Jah gave assurances of his group’s continued support for the growth of Nigeria’s electoral process.