Justice A. H. Suleiman, Chairman, National and State Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal in Kaduna State, said the tribunal has received 18 petitions from candidates not satisfied with the outcome of the just-concluded 2019 polls in the state.
Suleiman, who addressed lawyers and newsmen during the tribunal inaugural sitting on Thursday in Kaduna, said 10 of the petitions were in respect of the February 23 National Assembly elections, while eight were for the March 9 State House of Assembly poll.
Suleiman warned that absence of parties and their Counsel will not stop proceedings of the tribunal, NAN reports.
He added that where necessary, “appropriate provisions of the Rules of Court or Practice Direction (as the case may be) will be invoked against the defaulting party.“
He stressed that “the parties and Counsel are forewarned to desist from engaging in any untoward act that may stifle the administration of justice.
“In this regard, any attempt to influence the Tribunal, in any way or mode, should be totally avoided as such attempt shall be severely dealt with according to the law.“
The Chairman emphasized that the Tribunal shall have zero tolerance for corruption and warned against back door communication by litigants or their Counsel with the Chairman, members or staff of the Tribunal.
“All communications should be in the Open Court. This is in our bid to see that justice is not only done, but also seen to be done.
“Importantly also, the Tribunal expects much from the legal practitioners that may appear before it to prosecute or defend their respective petitions.
“That is to say, Counsel should exhibit high standard of professional conduct and etiquette.
“To the members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm, i.e. the Press, there is no doubt that we are partners in progress. We, therefore, solicit for your utmost co-operation for the good of the society.
“We accordingly implore you to report the proceedings of the Tribunal accurately.
“You are enjoined to eschew sensational cum inaccurate reports concerning the proceedings of the Tribunal. It is our belief that you all know the consequences of doing otherwise.”
The chairman said the tribunal would seat daily including weekends until all the cases are concluded.
“Election petitions by their nature are sui generis; i.e. in a class of its own. It is therefore obvious that time is of essence.
“In this regard, we request the cooperation of all, especially the legal practitioners having petitions to prosecute or defend before the Tribunal. Counsel should therefore endeavor to remain committed and be up and doing.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Tribunal will not entertain unnecessary delay as the petitions will be treated with utmost urgency and dispatch. Counsel is further reminded to avoid the request for unnecessary adjournment.
“On our part as Judicial Officers, we are under an oath to dispense justice without fear or favor, affection or ill-will,” he said.
According to Suleiman, the Tribunal will afford all parties adequate and equal opportunity within the ambit of the law to present their cases to the best of their ability for adjudication.
“To achieve the noble objective of expeditious dispensation of justice in the enormous petitions before us, the Tribunal shall adopt and seriously adhere to the following:
“The sitting of the Tribunal will always commence at 9:00am daily and may as well extend to the night.
“The sitting will be on day to day basis and may include weekends and public holidays.”