The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Olukayode Ariwoola, on Monday, cautioned judges appointed to resolve disputes from next year’s general elections, to shun corrupt practices.
A total of 307 judges will be serving on Election Petitions Tribunals set up to adjudicate disputes that may arise from the 2023 elections.
Mr Ariwoola spoke at the inauguration of members of the 2023 Election Petitions Tribunals at the National Judicial Institute (NJI) in Abuja.
He said the task of adjudicating electoral disputes from the forthcoming 2023 polls “is not an undertaking to be handled with levity.”
He admonished the judges to “discharge these onerous responsibilities with honesty, integrity and transparency,” adding, “do what is right in our law books and you will have your names etched in gold.”
The CJN advised the judges to conduct their responsibilities “within the ambit of the law and the oath that has just been administered on you.”
“As the Chief Justice of Nigeria, I will not condone any act of recklessness, abuse of power and public trust,” Mr Ariwoola warned the 307 judicial officers who will be handling post-election cases.
Earlier in a welcome address, the President of the Court of Appeal, Monica Dongban-Mensem, whose court coordinates and serves as the secretariat for election petitions tribunal across the country, acknowledged that Nigeria’s judiciary was going through trying times.
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Mrs Dongban-Mensem advised members of the tribunals “not to allow yourselves to be used as conduit pipes for evil machinations.”
She said election petition “decisions must be based on your clear understanding of the facts and application of the laws which you swore to uphold upon your appointment (as judges).”
“You must resist any form of pressure and influence as well as temptation that may come your way,” the appellate court President charged the judges.
Section 285 of the Constitution and Section 130 of the Electoral Act states that the Election Petition Tribunal shall be constituted not later than thirty (30) days before the Election and open its Registry for business Seven (7) days before the Election.
Mrs Dongban-Mensem said, “democracy is not just about the conduct of elections but the protection of the outcome of such election by way of adjudication of dispute arising therefrom.”
Giving a breakdown of the composition of the tribunals, Mrs Dongban-Mensem said
the Federal High Court donated four judges for the exercise, while the National Industrial Court gave three of their judges.
The FCT and State High Courts donated 213 judges, while the Customary Court and the Sharia Court donated 13 and 27 respectively.
The Chief Magistrates Court gave 17 of its Magistrates, bringing the number to 277.
But the total number of judges that will adjudicate on the post-election cases is 307.
Conflicting court decisions
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, on Monday, gave a countdown to the 2023 polls.
Mr Mahmood, a professor of History, said the general election was 109 days away.
He said the new electoral law contains 80 new provisions aimed at improving Nigeria’s elections.
Speaking on the problem of conflicting court decisions, the INEC boss said the “Electoral Act confers exclusive jurisdiction to hear pre-election cases on the Federal High Court with regard to candidate nomination in order to reduce forum shopping by litigants, abuse of court process and reduction in the spate of conflicting judgements by courts of coordinate jurisdiction.”
Comparing the outcomes of post-election suits, Mr Mahmood said there was a drastic reduction in the number of cases arising from the 2019 election.
He disclosed that 30 elections were upturned by the tribunals in 2019 as against over 100 in a previous election.
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