As new pieces of evidence of rigging and irregularities continue to emerge from the just concluded local government elections held on the 24th of July, one major issue stands out: the fact that the Chief Judge of Lagos State failed to set up the Election Tribunal until several days after the election had been concluded.
Although the Local Government Election Tribunal Law of Lagos State is quite clear on the time frame allowed for aggrieved candidates to file their petition (an election petition shall be presented within 21 days from the date of which the result of the election was declared), it is surprisingly silent on when the tribunal should be set up. Hence, we have to rely on the Electoral Act (2010) to determine the appropriate and legally acceptable time to set up an election tribunal.
Section 133 of the Electoral Act states that “an election tribunal shall be constituted not later than 14 days before the election and when constituted shall open their registries for business seven days before the election.” Unfortunately, the tribunal in Lagos state was not officially set up until the 2nd of August 2021, 7 days after the election had been declared.
What are the implications?
Recall that the LOCAL Government Election Tribunal Law of Lagos State stipulates that aggrieved candidates have 21 days from the date an election was declared to file their petition. Without a functioning tribunal, it would be impossible to file any petition, and, in this case, aggrieved candidates would have lost over a week to file their petition. Secondly, and equally important, is that because the tribunal was not sitting before the election, issues like undue tampering with polling units and several other issues that impacted the election could not be brought forward and challenged legally.
Citizens must continue to advocate for an electoral system that is fair to all and not biased against opposition parties. The delay in setting up the tribunal notwithstanding, Nigerians will be paying rapt attention to the proceedings and hoping that justice is served.