Some residents of Enugu, Tuesday, demanded that the 180 days which the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provided to decide election cases should be reviewed. According to them, the provision gives undue advantage to elected officials whose victories are being contested.
Ken Omeje, a lawyer, said, “One wonders why somebody who steals people’s mandates through election malpractices should be allowed to be sworn in while his election is being contested! Such a person will definitely be using public funds and resources in the prosecution of his case. This needs to be looked into urgently.”
Andrew Aba, a politician, said it was skewed to inculcate corruption in the polity. In his view, “It is the main reason why some politicians hijack power and ask losers to go to court. Wielders of such powers will have about six months to hold sway in the administration before court verdicts. The same persons will have access to allocations and security votes, which they can use to influence vulnerable judges.”
Charles Eze, a business man, said, “My take is that people whose seats are being contested should not be sworn in until their cases are decided. How do you expect a sitting president or governors not to influence the outcomes of such cases? This is why many of us do not give credence to election tribunals.”
For Malachy Okonkwo, “The main issue is the conduct of elections. If it is free and fair, there won’t be need for litigation. Jonathan did not go to court because he was convinced that he lost; likewise, other governors. A law should be enacted for the prosecution of any INEC staff or ad-hoc staff found to have compromised. That is where the problem lies. If at the end, INEC is found to have broken the law, the people in charge should be made to face the music. From there you will see that there may not be any need for a short or lengthy legal process.”
Chinwendu Onuh, a student of international relationship, University of Nigeria, urged Nigeria to learn from other countries, where election matters are decided within one week. He advised that ‘such cases move straight to the Supreme Court’.
Aloy Ejimakor, a constitutional lawyer, submits that there was no provision that an elected president must be sworn on May 29.
Quoting him, “By virtue of the Section 1(2) of the Constitution, inaugurating a new president on May 29 while the court is yet to call the final result would mean that persons (or a group of persons) have taken control of the government of Nigeria in a manner that does not accord with the constitution.
“If a new president is sworn-in on May 29 and subsequently, the tribunal or the Supreme Court invalidates the election, what would you say happened to the government of Nigeria during the period the sacked president held office before the final judgment?
“Unarguably, what happened is that during such period, the Federal Republic of Nigeria and her government were taken control of in a manner that did not accord with the constitution. By all means, it should be avoided as the constitution has enabled such under Sections 135 and 136.”
Ejimakor explains further that there won’t be any vacuum in such scenario as, according to him, ‘the incumbent president, despite exhausting his eight years, is not going anywhere until his successor is sworn-in and such a date could overshot May 29’.