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Nigeria Judicial System and the 2023 General Elections

Nigeria Judicial System and the 2023 General Elections

Nigeria is heading to its most crucial poll in its 62 years of independent rule. Not because the ones before had no consequence on the polity. It is mainly because the dispensation of today’s electorate is one of heightened regret for yesterday’s nonchalance to due diligence. Seeking to take the country’s embattled future from the stoic grip of leaders with little or no track record of accountability, sincerity, and work ethics needed to revitalize the country, the 2023 General election is rife with rapt attention from citizens having deep concerns for the pre and post phase of the electioneering season.

Closely watching the whole scenery of a political flick to get its attention is the judiciary. Becoming the norm in Nigeria, lawsuits are expected to be filed against defendants while complainants are also expected to step up their case evidence to get merit. This is a cliché happening in Nigeria as we have seen over the years. It is hard to tag an election conclusive without the intervention of the law court. To that effect, the legal dispute over the true outcome of an election, quite disheartening, is the surest way to discover the real winner of any poll. Thus, the judiciary gets busy with high-profile cases between aspirants who feel manipulated or the other faction trying to uphold his victory.

The delicate nature of Nigeria’s judiciary leaves the election hanging on a thread. Due to the partisan practice of many judges, it takes a stronger will to avoid interference from disgruntled factions who possess humongous influence to cut corners. As the day goes by, people are edified to keep up with their push for unlawful conduct, considering the slap on the wrist old defaulters got. This is where the force of the law needs to be felt. To curb the excesses of this nefarious trend, law enforcement is needed now than ever. For clarity’s sake, the actual suits are not misleading. What should be blatantly rebuked is the use of the judiciary to delay an administration, ultimately creating an unfillable vacuum in government activities. Getting the legal framework back to its achievable best, the general election is a great way to start reassuring Nigerians that the judiciary is still a common man’s last hope by simply refusing to be the jobless intercessor. 

We have experienced the height of ridicule in the name of interlocutory court adjournment, which despicably amounts to further delay of justice or in worst cases, denial of justice. Hence, strengthening the confidence of Nigerians in the judiciary is a hard but not impossible task. Getting back to an epoch where tribunals and appellant courts are not willfully powered to snatch from INEC, the responsibility of the recognized body for deciding elections will end the seemingly endless legal tussle between warring candidates. 

The electoral law should be reviewed to reduce the role of the judiciary in deciding the outcome of elections. INEC is the only body constitutionally entrusted with the conduct of elections. But the only way to achieve such finality is to empower INEC to adopt current technologies in election management. Our banking and telecommunications systems are about the most advanced in the adoption and application of IT solutions on the African continent. It is about time we stopped emulating every political battle so rampant in the western world. The judiciary must take steps to sanitize its work ethics — prioritize the aspect of the law that restores the confidence and respect of the citizenries in the competence of the court system.

Of course, we know that money politics dovetail into the matters of law; it should be unheard of that election results be decided as we like to imitate the best of other nations. How come the Indians manage a democracy of nearly one billion voters without these needless lawsuits? If at all any, not to the point of strangling the running of government for months and leaving the atmosphere to fester with uncertainty on who’s in charge. Almost impossible to find systems in Africa where election results are not disputed for days unending. We can be the model for a straightforward election process without seeking elongated judicial redress.

The world will be watching, and the credibility of our election will be put to test come 2023. It is up to the Independent Electoral Commission to put up a great show. Our continuous sovereignty is hinged on the fairness of the general election at all levels. To focus on a positively driven poll, all stakeholders — aspirants and electorate alike must jettison the thought of seeking judicial intervention as the first port of call when electoral vagueness arises but channel their energy into demanding that the election addresses all the concerns highlighted by curious minds. 

It is for the country’s good if we have a violent free and hard-to-challenge election process. by so doing, the judiciary retains its sacred role for administering justice, not being a tool for affluent manipulators to flex its legal muscle using legal disputes to slow down administrative duties.

Written by Stephen Oladele. A Freelance Writer/ParaLegal at Citizens’ Gavel from Lagos, Nigeria. He can be reached at stephen@gavel.ng

Edited by Taiwo Makanjuola. Communications Associate, Citizens’ Gavel. She can be reached at taiwo@gavel.ng

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