*plans parley with lawyers, stakeholders on way forward
*says introduction of the Electronic Voting Machines to improve the integrity of elections jettisoned by courts
By; JACOB ONJEWU DICKSON
Chairman of the PDP in Kaduna State, Honourable Felix Hassan Hyat declared this at a world press briefing held at its State secretariat on Wednesday February 16, 2022.
“We also call on the good people of Kaduna State to rise up and condemn and also demand the immediate repeal of the state electoral law.
“Meanwhile, the PDP shall be meeting with its major stakeholders and legal team to determine its next line of action,” he said.
Hyat said that the 2021 LG elections and the issues of impropriety that deprived the will of the people to come to fruition still linger after PDP went to the tribunal to seek redress.
“However, the tribunal received 58 petitions following the LG elections conducted in 2021 and by the provision of the Kaduna State Electoral Law, 120 days is set aside for hearing. The 120 days lapsed on Thursday, February 10th, 2022 and the tribunal rounded up even when it did not deliver judgment on any of the 58 cases.
“One of the ambiguities of the LG post-Election Tribunal in the state is the decision of the Chief Judge of Kaduna State to establish just one tribunal that presided over 58 cases in the span of 120 days even when the Kaduna State Electoral Law empowers him to establish more Election Tribunals which shall have original jurisdiction to hear and determine election petitions,” he said.
The PDP Chairman recalled that the tribunal in the state began sitting on October 11, 2021 however, it was unable to make an exception in respect of the staggered elections in local government councils of 4th September, 25th September and 23rd October, 2021.
“This is because the provisions of section 86 (6) of the Kaduna State Electoral Law was explicit when it stipulated that the Tribunal shall stand dissolved not later than 120 days after the date of its first sitting.
“We are, however, not surprised at the turn of events in the Kaduna State Election Tribunal. This is because the very basis of the exercise was faulty,” he said.
PDP pointed out that there are a number of provisions in the Kaduna State Electoral Law, 2021 that they can point to in this regards, however, they highlighted the alleged major flaws of the said Law that they consider archaic and retrogressive; yet they found their way into a piece of legislation drafted by a supposedly progressive government.
“1. The time prescribed for the filing of election petitions: The Kaduna State Electoral Law is pretentiously inspired by the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended). On the time for filing election petitions, section 85 of the Kaduna State Electoral Law, 2021 stipulates that an election petition shall be presented within fourteen (14) days after the date of the result of the election is declared. The minimum standard as prescribed by the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), and which has been adopted by several States in the Federation is twenty one (21) days.In view of the enormity of the task before a petitioner to obtain clear certified true copies of election results from the Kaduna State Electoral Commission, and the number of witnesses involved in the preparation of an election petition, the period of 14 days provided for presenting an election petition in Kaduna State is grossly inadequate. In spite of the paucity of time, the PDP was able to present about 30 petitions, only to be confronted with other challenges.
“2. The Requirement to Join Statutory Respondents:Section 88 (2) of the Law stipulates that if a petitioner complains of the conduct of an Electoral Officer, Presiding Officer or Returning Officer, such person shall be joined as a Respondent to the petition. This is reminiscent of the provisions of section 133 (2) of the repealed Electoral Act, 2003. It is instructive to note that this requirement for joinder of such persons has long been jettisoned since 2006. This is because the principle of agency of these officers and the relevant Electoral Commissions is not in doubt. Section 88 (2) of the Law made the filing of election petitions laborious since each of them had to be specifically described and the roles they played in the election defined. All of this was to be done within the unusually limited time for presenting petitions.
“3. The Requirement of the Tribunal to hear and Determine Objections during the Pre-Hearing Sessions:Paragraph 18 (7) (d) of the First Schedule to the Kaduna State Electoral Law provides that at the pre-hearing session, the Tribunal shall consider and take appropriate action in respect of the hearing and determination of objections of point of Law. Similarly, Paragraph 53 (5) of the same First Schedule to the Kaduna State Electoral Law stipulates that an objection challenging irregularity or competence of any election petition shall be heard and determined before any further steps in the proceedings. The implication is that any objection to the competence of a petition must be determined at the pre-hearing sessions.When these provisions of the First Schedule are juxtaposed with Paragraphs 18 (6) (f) and (7) (i) which talk about the expeditious determination of election petitions, it is easy to see the inherent contradiction. This is because it is impossible to have the Tribunal hear and determine election petitions during pre-hearing sessions, and at the same time conclude hearing of all the petitions before it within 120 days after its first sitting.
“The best practice as prescribed by the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) is for objections to the competence of an election petition to be determined along with the petition. The Kaduna State Electoral Law fails to meet the minimum best practice in this regard,” he said. The party therefore, condemned in the strongest terms the faulty Kaduna State electoral law which they said was deliberately designed and signed into law by the governor to serve as an instrument for electoral theft and subversion of the will of the people.
“We berate the wisdom of the governor and his legal team for signing into law such a contemptuous document especially given the claim of His Excellency, Mal. Nasir Elrufa’i of being a progressive democrat committed to improving our electoral process and jurisprudence.
“The introduction of the Electronic Voting Machines to improve the integrity of our elections have been jettisoned by the inability of the courts to determine malpractices and recover stolen mandates for aggrieved parties, and in this case the PDP.
“We are disappointed in the failure of the Chief Judge of Kaduna State to establish more tribunals as provided for in the electoral law to create room for accommodating more cases as well as the speedy determination of same given the limited time the electoral law provided,” the main opposition party demanded.
The PDP also demanded that the immediate review of the current electoral law, and for the full participation of the public and relevant stakeholders in the process to forestall future compromise of election outcomes using the courts, as it happened in the recent one.
“It is pertinent to note that the last review of the electoral law by the House of Assembly was shrouded in secrecy, and even after it was signed into law by the governor, getting a copy of the said law became a herculean task,” the party lamented.