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Election Petition: Judges now coup plotters – TI, CISLAC

tribunals, CISLAC

BY IDIBIA GABRIEL

Transparency International (TI) in Nigeria and the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), have said that Nigeria’s electoral integrity has continued to be compromised and destroyed by judgments being delivered on electoral litigations by Nigerian courts and tribunal which are short of professionalism.

The civic organisations said this as part of their observations made during a “National Seminar on Targeted Electoral Reforms and Enhanced Judicial Integrity in Post-election Litigation” held at Sheraton Hotel, Lagos State on Thursday.

The TI and CISLAC in a communique issued at the end of the meeting said it was sad that Nigerian law courts “have become the graveyards of electoral mandates with judges not only descending to being common purchasable judicial rogues, but also as juridical coup plotters.”

They stated that after brainstorming exhaustively on various thematic sessions, it was observed that “In recent times, Nigeria’s electoral integrity has been compromised, considering the fast-eroding independence and professional ethics by judicial institutions through Tribunal judgments.

“The Law Court has continued to play a critical role in the determination of political leadership through post-election litigations, hence the need to refocus attention on the role of judiciary in electoral tribunal judgment.

“Despite various legal reforms preceding the 2023 general and off-cycle elections, the conduct and outcomes of the elections have questioned the direction of Nigeria’s democracy.

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“The growing military coup and political instability across West Africa are not unconnected to the effect of electoral fraud, vote rigging, vote-trading as well as judicial distrust.

“The emerging judiciary attempts to truncate the victory of Nigerian voters constitutes a serious threat to democratic order, electoral governance and public trust.

“Relentless effort and determination by unpatriotic political groups to sabotage electoral integrity has left devastating effects on citizens’ trust in the Electoral Body and the judiciary.

“Electoral reform remains critical to uphold and consolidate democracy and deepen citizens’ participation in Nigeria.”

They further observed that “While Nigeria has made significant improvement in the electoral legal reform, further reform effort must be directed towards institutional, process and procedure strengthening as well as the illicit activities of electoral practitioners that backpedal reform effort.

“Money politics coupled with unattended party nomination fees and over-commercialisation of electoral process has deprived many decent Nigerians the opportunity to compete favourably in primary elections across political parties, threatening credibility in the electoral process.

“Unethical party practices, party politics and poor implementation of party constitution is a major threat efficient operationalization of legal and institution.

“The needless national spread of political parties has necessitated the growing money bag, while discouraging inclusive participation and equal playing field.

“In the context of electoral operations, Residential Electoral Commissioners are bedeviled by centralization of power and decision making (that impacts negatively on procurement process of electoral materials, logistics arrangement); slow recruitment of adhoc staff; delayed response to demands; and rising political pressure.

“Inadequate use of technology backed by lack of supporting legal provisions in the electoral process has provided a basis for the growing post-election litigations and judicial truncation of electoral outcomes.

“Lack of legal provision in the Electoral Act to support whistle-blower and public interest litigations before, during and after the elections.

“Electoral misconducts are enabled by partisanship supported by the over-centralised appointment of INEC Chairman and RECs; non-transparent nomination process; lack of political will to implement relevant reforms’ recommendations.

“Electoral violence in forms of persecution and intimidation, constitutes a stumbling block to free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria.

“The emerging judicial corruption through the post-election litigations like the ongoing tribunal activities on kano governorship with scandalous and contradictory double standard court papers has called for adequate reform in Nigeria’s judicial system to make it more transparent, independent and efficient in the delivery of impartial justice through which the citizens’ choices prevail.

“The Law Courts have become the graveyards of electoral mandates with judges not only descending to being common purchasable judicial rogues, but also as juridical coup plotters.

“In recent times, the major preoccupation of pro-democracy activists is no longer how to keep the military from politics and governance but how to save democracy from the judiciary.

“Micro-managing the Law Courts by manipulating the rulings or interpretations of the law that drastically alter the balance of power, primarily to achieve political ends that would not be possible through standard electoral processes has become a serious concern.”

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