CSOs canvass improved reportage of NASS electoral tribunals
By Aluta News
A coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has urged media practitioners to give ample coverage to the ongoing National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal (NAEPT) sitting across the country.
The African Parliamentary Advocates and Reform Group (APARG) in collaboration with the Coalition of Parliamentary Advocates and Democracy Consolidation in Nigeria (COPADECON) made the call on Thursday in Abuja.
Addressing a news conference, the convener of the coalition, Mr Chibuzo Okereke decried the poor reportage of the National Assembly tribunals.
He said that the legislature which is the fulcrum of democracy is the closest arm of government to the people and the only arm that offers the largest direct representation of citizens.
According to him, in spite of the fundamental role the National and sub-national legislatures play in a democratic system as practiced in Nigeria, the interest of Nigerians in this all-important arm of government leaves much to be desired.
“We have once again, observed and are concerned about what again appears to be an untended suppression and low interest of the major media organisations in the proceedings of the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunals.
“Whereas the various flagship platforms of major media organisations are daily saturated with the reportage of the proceedings of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunals, little or no attention has been channeled toward the interesting and intriguing proceedings that have characterised the NAEPT.
“The fourth estate of the realm which is the media, is saddled with the responsibility of setting the agenda, enlightening the public, and obligation of accountability of government to the people has unfortunately not shown the required interest in the coverage of proceedings of the tribunals,” he said.
Okereke said that about 50 per cent out of the 469 seats in the National Assembly are being challenged at the various Tribunals across the country.
He said that prominent among the cases is the Kano state Central Senatorial district petition which is now set for judgment by July 24.
Okereke said that Kano Central is about the largest Senatorial District in Nigeria and the only Senatorial District in the 2023 General Elections where the person returned as the winner by INEC relinquished the victory.
The ambassador explained that the winner, former Gov. Ibrahim Shekarau got the ticket to run for the position under the New Nigerians Peoples Party (NNPP) but left for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before the election.
Okereke said that Shekarau was replaced by the NNPP with Sen. Rufai Hanga, a change that was not reflected in the records of the INEC before the election.
He said that after the declaration, Shekarau rejected his victory on the grounds that he had resigned his membership of the NNPP that sponsored him as the candidate before the election at the time.
Okereke said that the time of this development, the window for candidate’s substitution had elapsed in accordance with the relevant extant provisions of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution, the Electoral Act, 2022 and the INEC 2023 General Elections Guidelines.
Okereke said that the coalition is interested in the judgment as it would deepen democracy in the country, hence the need for Nigerians to be up to speed.
“We are deeply worried that the publicity of the major media coverage of the Legislative Election Petition Tribunals and by extension, the oversight of the Judiciary may have serious implications if not urgently addressed.
“The Kano Central Election Petition is a litmus test to the Judiciary in terms of procedure and the extant provisions of Nigeria’s electoral governance laws and framework.
“Our Eyes are on the Kano Central Judgment being expected. These and more are what have made the Kano Central Senatorial District Tribunal case unique and intriguing as it presents an observable lacuna in the much-celebrated 2022 Electoral law.
“But more importantly, it is a litmus test for the judiciary and judges saddled with that responsibility in line with the prescriptions and predictions of Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution, the Electoral Act, Electoral Guidelines, and the point of law.
“We believe this should agitate the minds of all promoters and defenders of democracy that is based on the rule of law,” he said.
The coalition called on the media to retool the approach to election petition reportage and ensure commensurate attention to the legislative election tribunal in the country.