Home Election CISLAC Calls for Electoral Reforms, Enhanced Judicial Integrity in Post-election Litigation

CISLAC Calls for Electoral Reforms, Enhanced Judicial Integrity in Post-election Litigation

by Isiyaku Ahmed
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The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Transparency International (TI) in Nigeria have called for electoral reforms and enhanced judicial integrity in post-election litigation.

The call is one of many concerns contained in a communique issued at the end of a national seminar organized in Lagos on 30th November 2023.

The Seminar brought under one roof, Legal Practitioners, Electoral Experts, Electoral Observers, Civil Society and the Media, to critically observe the areas enabling technicalities and challenges bedeviling the electoral system and conduct.

The event proffered holistic recommendations for adequate and all-inclusive reform that restores and preserves judicial integrity in Nigeria’s electoral system.

Observations and recommendations of the communique which was signed by the Executive Secretary of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani) read;

There was a Welcome Remark from the Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani); Opening Remarks from Dr. Kole Shettima, MacArthur Foundation; and Barrister Olisa Agbakoba SAN, Former President of the NBA.

The Seminar had some technical reflections with presentations titled: Reforming Nigeria’s Electoral System for Mandate Protection: Opportunities, Challenges and the Way Forward by Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim, Senior Fellow, Centre for Democracy and Development, Electoral Reforms from Institutional Strengthening by Prof Mohammed Kuna, Special Adviser to Hon. Chairman INEC; Defining and Entrenching Threshold for Election Credibility in the Country, Dr. Sam Amadi, Former Chairman, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC); Politicization of Election Disputes in Nigeria’s Courts: Key Provisions of the Electoral Act, and the Challenges of Technical Interpretation.

Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa SAN; Entrenching the Legal Use of Technology in the Conduct of Elections in Nigeria, Nurudeen Ogbara, Former Secretary General NADL; Electoral Reform from Political Party Strengthening Perspective, Prof Hassan Saliu, President, Nigerians Political Science Association (NPSA); RECs and Challenges of Election Management in Nigeria, Prof Sam Egwu, REC, Benue State; Experience Sharing from Active Participation, Comrade Omoyele Sowore, Human Rights Activist and Pro-democracy Campaigner; Timelines for Filing and Technicalities that undermine Electoral Justice in Nigeria, Comfort Idika-Ogunye, Female Leadership Forum; Imperatives of Constitutional and Institutional Reforms – a Post 2023 Election Cycle Reflection, by Attorney Carol Ajie; Strengthening Strategic Advocacy for Key Electoral Reforms and Civic Education:

Others are ‘The Critical Role of Nigerian Civil Society and the Media’, Engr Y.Z Ya’u, the Executive Convener Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room; Reflection on Judiciary Capture by Politicians, Barr. Frank Agbedo Esq; Legislative Pathways for Effective Electoral & Judicial Reforms, Hon. Uche Onyeagocha; Experience Sharing: Women in Politics, Mrs Olajumoke Anifowoshe, Former Attorney-General, Ondo State; Nigerian Judiciary and Illusion for Electoral Justice Kano, Zamfara, Plateau and Kaduna examples, Prof Farooq Adamu Kperogi Kennesaw State University Georgia, USA.

After brainstorming exhaustively on various thematic sessions, the following observations and recommendations were made:

Observations:

1. In recent times, Nigeria’s electoral integrity has been compromised, considering the fast-eroding independence and professional ethics by judicial institutions through Tribunal judgments.

2. 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 the judiciary in electoral tribunal judgment.

3. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. Unethical party practices, party politics, and poor implementation of the party constitution are major threats efficient operationalization of legal and institution

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

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

13. Inadequate use of technology backed by a 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.

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

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

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

17. 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.

Recommendations:

We the participants recommended as follows:

Electoral reform:

1. Refocus attention on the broader context of reform like public acceptability, political candidates’ integrity, and good governance that reinforce elections as critical elements of democracy.

2. Revisit the basis for the appointment of RECs through proper scrutiny to discourage intrusion of card-carrying members of political parties, to prevent conflict of interest in the electoral process and outcomes.

3. Encourage local procurement of electoral materials to prevent systemic bottlenecks and other challenges that bedevil logistics provisions during electoral conduct.

4. Independent oversight of bureaucracy within the INEC to address over-centralization of electoral logistics and structures.   

5. Enhance transparency and inclusion in the contest of Primary Elections to promote acceptable outcomes that mitigate pre- and post-election petitions.

6. Encouraging state involvement in political party financing to promote transparency and accountability, while reducing the incidence of money politics and hijacking.

Institutional reform:

1. Strengthening internal reform processes and procedures within the electoral institution for improvement to efficiently deliver on electoral integrity, while discouraging reported sabotage and process manipulation by electoral practitioners. 

2. De-centralise the procurement process for adequate provision of required logistics to facilitate the smooth running of the electoral process and conduct that restores citizens’ confidence and participation.

3. Strengthen the capacity of party managers and electoral agencies through deliberate and conscious training and retraining on effective electoral conduct and process.

4. Revive the Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Inter-party Relations to maintain regular consultation and harmony between the ruling and opposition parties.

5. Reactivate all electoral organs for effective implementation of electoral reform.

6. Strengthen the INEC legal power to prove and declare the credibility of electoral outcomes to minimize judicial interference; and appoint RECs to preserve their operational integrity and standards in the conduct of elections.

7. Training and retraining programs to boost the technical and forensic capacity of INEC Staff on the efficient conduct of digital elections.

Legal reform:

1. Immediate amendments to Sections 41, 47, and 60 of the Electoral Act to provide adequate legal backing to whistle-blower and public interest litigations before, during, and after the elections.

2. Understand the limitations to reforming electoral legal processes and institutions to prevent deliberate neglect and summersault in the implementation process.

3. Strengthen the capacity of the electoral body to adequately deploy technology in the electoral process through amendment to relevant provisions of the Electoral Act.

4. Strict compliance by INEC and stakeholders to the implementation of relevant provisions of the Electoral Act.

5. Immediate regulation of political funding by the National Assembly through appropriate amendment to the relevant provisions of the Electoral Act, to criminalize non-compliance in political party funding.

Judiciary reform:

1. Re-examine selective judicialization of party supremacy giving cognizance to appropriate reform approach and procedures.

2. Harmonise various judicial rulings on electoral outcomes across the country to boost advocacy position to exhaustively engage the National Assembly for immediate amendment of the Electoral Act.

3. Adequate specialized training and retraining programs for judges to ensure well-informed technical interpretations that preserve judicial integrity.

4. Reduce the layers of Court involvement with clear power separation to handle pre- and post-election matters to reduce electoral litigation burden on the judiciary.

Civil Society:

1. Continued support to the Civil Society to protect and defend democracy, the rule of law, and electoral governance in Nigeria.

2. Sustained and strategic advocacy by Civil Society through massive social mobilization for common demands in electoral reform, while ensuring that citizens’ expectations resonate with the demands.

3. Massive public awareness and education to harvest citizens’ support for judicial reform through targeted engagements.

Gender inclusion:

1. Gender-inclusive reform in the electoral process for equal participation and level playing field in electoral conduct and process.  

2. Full implementation of gender quotas in party constitutions to promote equal participation of women in political leadership. 

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