With curtains being drawn gradually on the outcomes of the 2023 general elections and post-electoral petitions, where some candidates who sought succour from the judiciary have been disappointed, stakeholders have called for reforms of the judicial system to enhance its integrity and give credibility to Nigeria’s democratic process. The stakeholders also raised eyebrows at the
With curtains being drawn gradually on the outcomes of the 2023 general elections and post-electoral petitions, where some candidates who sought succour from the judiciary have been disappointed, stakeholders have called for reforms of the judicial system to enhance its integrity and give credibility to Nigeria’s democratic process.
The stakeholders also raised eyebrows at the inability of the judiciary to dispense justice appropriately in accordance to the will of the people, thereby leading to political apathy and discontent amongst Nigerians towards the electoral process.
These were some of the major highlights from the National Seminar on Targeted Electoral Reforms and Enhanced Judicial Integrity in Post-Election Litigation organised by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) on Thursday.
The seminar, whose panelists included academics, activists, legal practitioners, politicians, and relevant Civil Society Organisations, focused on the judiciary’s recent disparity and inconsistency in judgements on electoral matters in the country, raising concerns about independence of the judiciary.
According to Professor Jibrin Ibrahim, Senior Fellow at the Centre for Democratic Development, the current actions of the judiciary are already compromising the integrity of Nigeria’s electoral system, pushing Nigerians to the brink of anarchy. He also added that as the judiciary seems to be a tool in the hands of the incumbent.
“Particularly, the judiciary is compromising the integrity of our elections, and I think the key message we need to give to the chief justice and others is that Nigerians are civil and peaceful, but if they continued compromising the integrity of our election, they are going to become the mob. They should be careful what they pray for. Elections are supposed to be very peaceful, very simple and, above all, easy people go, they vote it is counted and and winners are declared. But the incumbent are already using their power to influence the outcome of elections for their gains and that is leading to frustrations among Nigerians. The leadership must be careful not to destroy the system they came through.”
Speaking on the perceived politicisation of election disputes in the Nigerian courts, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, a legal practitioner argued that the courts deal with the fact and the evidence presented before it, therefore, it is within the right of the political candidates to approach the court for redress when not satisfied with the outcome of the election.
However, he noted that even though it appears that there is political interference with the judiciary, Nigerians are expected to rise to the occasion by giving it a close watch to avoid disparity from the court. He further called for the enactment of a law which would shift the burden of determining the winner of the Nigerian elections to the judiciary, instead, the Independent National Electoral Commission should be given such a role without any interference.
He also called for adequate training for the judges on how to handle electoral matters, noting that the majority of the Nigerian judges do not have expertise in electoral matters and their technicalities. He indicated that such actions are detrimental to Nigerian democracy.
“It is time for all of us, the stakeholders, to focus more on the judiciary than before. The judiciary is now becoming contradictory. For instance, some recent judgments of the court in the election tribunals, Appeal and even the supreme courts are now contradictory and that is a threat to democracy.”
Sharing her thoughts on the issues bothering women’s participation in politics, Mrs. Olajumoke Anifowoshe, the former Attorney General of Ondo State also added that the Nigerian political space has not provided enough opportunity for women to attain their deserved roles in the country. She further buttressed that the monetization of the country’s political space has crumpled the aspirations of women in society.
She advocated for reform in the Electoral Act, which will give them the opportunity to participate in Nigerian democracy.
In his submission, the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, Omoyele Sowore, also indicted the involvement of the judiciary in the Nigerian electoral process, saying the current administration has deliberately employed the judiciary to always truncate the choices of the people. He insisted that the Nigerian system no longer needs reform; instead, he argued that the country should call for revolution as the only way forward.
‘I have been hearing different people calling for reforms in the judiciary and our electoral system. I will say that this country does not need reform; what we need now is a revolution; that is the only way forward”.