The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, has okayed the deployment of 39 more judges to the National Assembly, Governorship and State Houses of Assembly Election Petition Tribunals sitting across the federation.
The addition of the judges, who were sworn-in at the Supreme Court on Thursday, increased the total number of members of various tribunals that are currently hearing petitions that arose from the conduct of the 2023 general elections, to 346.
While administering oath on the newly appointed 39 election petition tribunal judges, the CJN, warned them not to allow sentiments and public opinion to sway their sense of judgement.
Stressing that the country needs peace “at this crucial phase”, more than ever before, the CJN, said the judges were found worthy to be appointed as additional members of tribunals that have been saddled with “avalanche of petitions” that are trailing the general elections that held on February 25 and March 18, respectively.
He said: “You have just taken an oath that has not only imposed a course of upright morale undertaking on you but equally looped you with destiny.
“Your participation in these tribunals at this crucial phase of the Nigerian judiciary is not by accident but a clear design of the Almighty God.
“This is an enormous national assignment that will literally put the contents of your conscience to test.
“I am convinced that this is not the first oath you have taken as Judicial Officers, and certainly won’t be your last, especially as you ascend the ladder of your career.
“No amount of homily can convey the enormity of this task. But suffice it to say that you are already initiating an interaction with history. Whatever action or inaction you exhibit today will serve as your testament In the annals of the Nigerian judiciary.
“As judicial Officers, you may have, one way or the other, trodden this somewhat dreaded terrain, but you must, against all odds, rise above the murky waters of failure and infamy.
“The onus is on you to keep aloft the banner of honesty and integrity that the judiciary has painstakingly hoisted over the years. Your appointment to serve in these tribunals is well conceived, thus, you should do everything within your ability to justify this confidence.
“There is no doubt that you will be exposed to different forms of temptations and even blackmails but you should know that all are aimed at testing your strength of character, honesty and integrity.
“My candid advice is that, in whatever circumstance, you should always be mindful of this oath you have just taken because it now stands as an uncompromising witness between you and your creator.
“It behooves you to willingly submit yourselves to the sanctity of the rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution in the discharge of your judicial functions. It is the general belief that elections held when the rule of law is too fragile, seldom lead to lasting democratic governance.
“You are enjoined to always strike a balance between justice angirule of law as you embark on this critical national assignment.
“As you all know, rule of law delayed, is lasting peace denied because justice is a handmaiden of true peace.
“We need this in Nigeria more than ever before. The trumpet must first sound from the temple of justice; hence we put you forward as champions of this noble cause.
“By the virtue of this oath, you are now armed with the power to adjudicate on electoral disputes and take decisions in accordance with your convictions, which must be deeply rooted in law and not sentiments or public opinion.
“I pray the Almighty God will grant you the courage and wisdom to carry out this responsibility without faltering or failing,” the CJN added.
It will be recalled that he had earlier sworn-in 307 judicial officers to preside over petitions from the 2023 general election.
Whereas, it is the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, that pursuant to section 285(2) and (3) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, and section 130 of the Electoral Act, 2022, has the power to set up election tribunals, however, it is the responsibility of the CJN to swear them in.
While aggrieved candidates have 21 days from the date that the election result was announced, to file their petition, the tribunals on the other hand, are statutorily mandated to hear and deliver judgement on such electoral disputes, within 180 days.