By Wilson Adekumola
The Minister of State for Labour and Employment Festus Keyamo has explained why the determination of presidential election by the tribunal can not end before May 29.
According to the Nation, while making this disclosure in a statement on Sunday, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria said, “In the future, it is possible to amend our laws and rules of court to accommodate such an idea, but it is clearly impossible under our present circumstances,” he explained in a statement yes
He said those speculating that it will be determined before swearing-in are “plainly ignorant or crassly mischievous.
Keyamo held the view that verdict can only be given when some sections of the Constitution and court rules are amended.
Keyamo stated further that it is not in the opposition parties’ interest for their petitions against the victory of President-elect Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress to be rushed.
He insisted that id that happens, the cases of Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party and Peter Obi of the Labour Party before the Presidential Elections Petitions Tribunal could be destroyed because “justice rushed is justice crushed.”
Recall that Atiku and Obi are seeking to overturn the victory of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in the February 25 presidential poll at the tribunal.
The tribunal will today begin a pre-trial conference today. It has 180 days to complete the task. The appeal will last 60 days.
Keyamo’s statement added that those who call for the conclusion of the cases before the May 29 inauguration date “do not realise that they are, in fact doing great harm to the cases of the petitioners.
“It is the petitioners that need more time to prove their cases and not necessarily the defendants,”
The Minister said in the statement titled: “ Those calling for a quick determination of election petitions before May 29 under our present laws actually want to destroy the cases of petitioners.
The statement reads in read in parts, “Those calling for the determination of the election petitions before the swearing-in ceremonies on May 29t under our present electoral laws and Rules of Court and/or procedure are either plainly ignorant or crassly mischievous.
“They do not realise that they are, in fact doing great harm to the cases of the petitioners. It is the petitioners that need more time to prove their cases and not necessarily the defendants.
“That is why the petitioners are given 21 days to file and the defendants have 14 days to respond. And the petitioners have a further seven days to reply, making a total of 30 days as against the 14 days of the respondents.
“It follows that in leading evidence in court/tribunal in support of the petitions, the Petitioners would also take more time. It is more arduous to prove an election petition than to defend it.
“If these characters say a single point (let’s say the FCT 25 per cent storm-in-a-teacup issue) should be set down for determination immediately, would the Petitioners’ lawyers agree to withdraw and abandon all other issues raised in their petition and proceed only with that issue? Will they take that risk?
“Ask them privately. They know better. This is because the rules of election petitions do not allow petitioners to prove their cases piecemeal.”
Keyamo maintained that a petitioner cannot drag a single point up to the Supreme Court and after losing, return to the tribunal or court and say he wants to now prove other aspects of the case.
According to him, “Even that single point alone cannot be determined by the Supreme Court before May 29 because of the time given by the rules for parties to file their notices of appeal and exchange their briefs.
“It is indeed only the respondent that can raise a preliminary objection that can determine the petition in limine (that is, at the threshold). Even at that, the rules allow the court/tribunal to take the objection together with the Petition itself and give one judgment at the end in order to save time.
“So, this is free advice to the advocates of pre-May 29th determination of the election petitions: they are doing the cases of their principals (the petitioners) great harm. They should realise that just as we say ‘justice delayed is justice denied’, we also say ‘justice rushed is justice crushed.”