Akpabio Suggests Alternative Dispute Resolutions To Resolve Election Disputes 

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Kemisola Oye

THE Senate President, Goodwill Akpabio has suggested alternative resolutions to electoral disputes which he said are burdening the judiciary. Akpabio made this remark in Lagos today (Thursday) during an ongoing five-day retreat of the joint technical committee of the National Assembly on the Electoral Act 2022 Election Reforms at the Marriott Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos.

Akpabio, who was represented by the past president of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), Monday Ubani, said the gathering is imperative as the country stands at a crucial juncture in the journey towards further strengthening the foundation of democracy,  and ensuring that the will of the people is accurately reflected and respected in every ballot we cast and count. 

“The truth remains that we are burdening our judiciary too much with electoral disputes. May I advise that encouraging and mandating the use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms for certain types of electoral disputes could alleviate the burden on the Nigerian courts and expedite the dispute resolution process”. 

Speaking further, he said the task before the National Assembly through this joint committee is not just a matter of legislative reforms, it is a testament to ‘our’ dedication to enhance the electoral process, making it more transparent, inclusive, and fair.

“The Electoral Act 2022, which remains a significant milestone, is a living document that requires our continuous scrutiny, evaluation, and improvement to meet the evolving needs of our society and the aspirations of our people.

“This retreat provides us with a unique opportunity to pool our knowledge, experiences, and ideas to forge practical, innovative solutions that will stand the test of time. Let us leverage this great opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue with major stakeholders and fellow Nigerians, build consensus, and emerge with actionable strategies that will further refine and enhance the Electoral Act, paving the way for elections that will be more agreeable, credible, peaceful, and reflective of the true democratic ethos of our great nation,” he said.

Reflecting on the appropriateness of the retreat at this time in the nation’s political trajectory, Nigeria’s number three citizen said during the 2023 general elections in Nigeria, several sections of the Electoral Act 2022 were highlighted as potentially problematic, necessitating further review and possible amendments to enhance the electoral process. 

These concerns generally revolve around the operationalization of the Act, the technological innovations introduced, the judicial role and interpretation of the Act and the legal frameworks governing the conduct of elections. 

The key problematic areas include, but not limited to, the enumerating key problematic areas such as the introduction of technology for transmission of election results, the accreditation process, over-voting criteria, pre-election litigation timeframes, campaign finance, party primaries and candidate nomination, inclusion and accessibility.  

These, according to him, are good but come with challenges in the implementation, and that is why there is a need for engagement so that more changes in enactment are desirable. 

On the electronic transmission of election results, he said, “The introduction of technology in the transmission of election results was a significant change aimed at enhancing transparency and efficiency. However, issues such as technical glitches, concerns about the security of transmitted data, and the legal framework supporting electronic transmission may require further refinement by this 10th National Assembly. 

“Over-voting criteria. The Act’s provisions on what constitutes over-voting. especially in the context of electronic accreditation and vote counting, may need clarification and adjustment based on the practical challenges encountered during the elections and on the subsequent judicial interpretation of the subject matter. The case of Adeleke and Oyetota comes to mind”. 

Emphasizing the need to embrace alternative dispute resolutions of election disputes, the Senate president opined that pre-election litigation timelines for resolving pre-election disputes were too tight, potentially affecting the quality of adjudication and the ability of parties to seek redress.

“Amendments could provide more realistic timeframes for litigation on pre-election issues. In the same vein, we need to look closely at the issue of whether a candidate who has been declared a winner should be sworn in when legal disputes surrounding his or her election are yet to be concluded. 

“It has advantages and disadvantages which reflect on the integrity of the electoral process, the political stability of the country and the rights of candidates and parties involved in the election. “This 10th Assembly should take a holistic evaluation of the same and decide on it after informed inputs from all major stakeholders in the country.  Our electoral law can mandate that process to sanitize the system/

“It’s essential for this Committee in consultation with stakeholders such as the INEC, civil society, political parties, and the electorate, to carefully review the Act in light of the experiences from the 2023 general elections. This review should aim to identify specific sections for amendment, ensuring that any changes will strengthen the electoral process, enhance democracy, and reflect the will of the Nigerian people.

“Our goal is not only to address the challenges and shortcomings we have faced during the just concluded elections of 2023 but also to anticipate future challenges and opportunities, ensuring that our electoral system is very robust, resilient, and significantly responsive” he concluded.

In a welcome address, the Chairman, House Committee on Electoral Reforms, House of Representatives, Hon. Adebayo Balogun, stated that the leadership of the 10th National Assembly is fully committed to positive and people-driven electoral reforms.

Hon. Balogun remarked that the committee has been guided to work across party lines and in the best interest of the nation to strengthen the electoral Iegal framework, and consequently, better protect the all-important and nascent democracy which is a process that will drive national development. 

We are very much aware that there are some requests for amendments to the Electoral Act 2022, that will require changes to be made to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Therefore, as a matter of necessity, our technical Committee also has as members the Deputy President of the Senate and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives who are Chairman and Co-Chairman of the Constitution Amendment Committees of the National Assembly.

“This will allow us to bring the amendment to the Electoral Act in alignment with the Constitution through the ongoing review of our laws, as may be necessary”, he said.

Hon. Balogun hinted that they intend to test the expected electoral reforms with one or two off-season elections in 2025.

He assured Nigerians that the Technical Committee will surpass its expectations.

 

Eighteen-Eleven Media 

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