Tribunal tsunami: LP lawmakers look to Appeal Court for survival


    Members of the National Assembly on the platform of the Labour Party, LP, are experiencing a tsunami at the National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal.

    The development is already threatening their emergence in national politics.

    DAILY POST reports that following the outcome of the 2023 general election, the Labour Party inspired by Peter Obi’s movement, emerged as the third biggest party in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

    The party emerged as the third force by defeating several established politicians on their paths.

    However, the verdicts coming out of the tribunals across the state have been very damning for the lawmakers on the LP platform. Many of the lawmakers have been sacked over lack of proper nomination and other pre-election matters.

    The first blow to the Labour Party came from Delta State, where the tribunal sitting in Asaba, the Delta State Capital, sacked Ngozi Okolie as a Reps member and declared Ndudi Elumelu, the former minority leader, as the winner.

    In the last three months, several tribunals across the country have sacked other Labour Party lawmakers, including Ibe Okwara and Emeka Nnamani in Abia State, Amobi Ogah, Sunday Nnamchi, Chijioke Okereke, Seyi Sowunmi, Sunday Umeha, all Reps members.

    In Etiosa Federal Constituency of Lagos State, the court sacked Thaddeus Attah and called for supplementary elections in some polling units.

    However, all hope seems not lost as the Court of Appeal already ruled on the case of Ngozi Okolie and Ndudi Elumelu. The Court of Appeal faulted the ruling of the Tribunal, and affirmed Okolie as the rightful winner of the election.

    Legal experts believe that the decision of the Court of Appeal (Presidential Election Petition Tribunal) on Kashim Shettima and Peter Obi will also have an impact on the Labour Party lawmakers, specifically on pre-election matters.

    It would be recalled that the ruling APC had during the presidential tribunal, claimed that Obi was not properly nominated as presidential candidate by the party, but the tribunal ruled that it was a pre-election matter.

    Similarly, the case of double nominations against Shattima was also ruled as a pre-election matter.

    Tejumola Banigbe, a legal practitioner, told DAILY POST that the ruling of the presidential tribunal would be a precedent that may determine the fate of the Labour Party lawmakers.

    “To start with, the issue of party membership is a pre-election matter, and an internal party affair.

    “Anyone, who is not a member of that party, challenging the same would be deemed by law a meddlesome interloper.

    “Rightly put, the ruling of the PEPT on the issue of party membership had earlier been settled in the case of APM v. INEC (reported in 2023). In fact, this ground does not form the basis of qualification in the constitution and no section of the Electoral Act supersedes the constitution,” Banigbe said.

    He, however, stated that it may be too early to preempt the ruling of the appellant court because of the “recurring inconsistencies in the judgments of various judicial divisions of this Appellate Court.”

    Nigeria’s judiciary has been under scrutiny in the past couple of years over judgements that many considered to be inconsistent.

    The case of Ahmad Lawan easily comes to mind.

    Henry Eni-Otu, a legal practitioner in Abuja, said the Court of Appeal is mostly likely to affirm the victory of the Labour Party lawmakers.

    “For these cases, particularly the Labour Party members whose elections were nullified by the various tribunals, on the ground of nomination or sponsorship or membership of Party, the appellate court would most likely upturn such judgments and confirm their elections.

    “As it is equally trite, the issue of membership of a Party is non-justiciable,” he said.

    He added that, “The question of nomination and sponsorship as rightly decided by the Presidential Tribunal is pre-election and cannot be adjudicated upon at the Election Tribunal.

    “However, there is a caveat that must be noted as equally recognized by the PEPT, that is where there is an earlier judgment on the question of qualification, sponsorship and nomination, such a judgment can be brought forth at the Election Tribunal.”

    Similarly, the New Nigeria Peoples Party is facing difficulties at the tribunal in Kano State.

    So far, the NNPP has lost three seats in the House of Representatives.

    However, the NNPP got a reprieve last week when the Court of Appeal in Abuja, validated the election of Umar Zakari by overturning the decision of the lower court.

    Just like the NNPP, the fate of the Labour Party lawmakers is in the hands of the Appeal Court.

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