Mr Femi Falana, a Senor Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), in Abuja on Monday suggested that all appeals arising from governorship elections should terminate at the Court of Appeal.
Falana gave the advice while sharing his experience on election litigation process in Nigeria at a two-day international conference on
“Emerging Electoral Jurisprudence in Africa’’.
He said the suggestion was important to have only a true naked approach in presidential, National Assembly and State House of Assembly elections.
“It is only when it comes to governors for understandable reasons that the amendment was sought so that governors can have three stages.
“I think that we should go back to the process we have before whereby you have two stages of prosecuting election petitions,’’ Falana said.
On timely dispensation of election petitions within 180 days, Falana said the onus should be on the Independent National Electoral
Commission (INEC) to come to court and prove that it had conducted credible elections.
“ It shouldn’t be on the petitioners who will find it so difficult even to gather the materials within the time allowed, ‘’Falana said.
The lawyer advised Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) to partner with INEC in prosecuting electoral offenders.
“Instead of monitoring election, I am suggesting to the NBA to sit down with INEC get our colleagues in different parts of the country to volunteer to prosecute electoral offenders.
“Under the Electoral Act, Section 150, the duty is imposed on INEC to prosecute electoral offenders.
“But in discussing with the leadership of INEC, I have been told that they do not have the personnel and resources to start prosecuting electoral offenders,’’ he said.
Falana also advised lawyers not to refer to any governor removed from office as former governor, saying “as lawyers we must learn to comply with the rule of law.
“If we continue like this, we are not going to get it right and we are going to continue to export to other African countries, things that are dangerous traditions,’’ he said.
Falana said that if credible elections were conducted by INEC, there would be no basis for setting up election tribunals.
“Experience in Nigeria has shown that candidates who are defeated in credible elections do not hesitate to congratulate the winners.
“Such candidates and their political parties do not commit energies and resources to election petition,’’ he said.
Another lawyer, Dr Alex Iziyon (SAN), advised INEC to have a dedicated and special fund for election petitions.
Iziyon said this was important if the commission would be able to prosecute election offenders on time.
The President of NBA, Mr Augustine Alegeh, said there was a need to ensure that minimum changes were made whenever the amendment of the Electoral Act was considered.
Alegeh said that Nigeria never had two elections using the same Act.
“So when you have adjustment in the first Electoral Act and you have authority in that regard by the time you are sitting for the next election, the Electoral Act has changed.
“Then the lawyers are confronted by the devil of cut and paste and from there one thing leads to another, your petition is turned out because you have used your experience from the past,’’ he said.
Justice Roseline Bozimo, who chaired one of the technical sessions, urged lawyers to render advice to their clients not to take every election issue to the court.
Bozimo said this would reduce the number of election petitions in court.
The conference was organised by The Electoral Institute (TEI), an organ of INEC, in conjunction with Ford Foundation. (NAN)