The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)/Transparency International in Nigeria held a National Seminar on Targeted Electoral Reforms and Enhanced Judicial Integrity in Post-election Litigation. The Seminar aimed at bringing under one-roof, Legal Practioneers, Electoral Experts, Electoral Observers, Civil Society and the Media, to critically observe the areas enabling technicalities and challenges bedevilling the electoral system and conduct, in view of proffering holistic recommendations for adequate and all-inclusive reform that restores and preserves judicial integrity in the Nigeria’s electoral system. 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.
This brainstorming session was highlighted in a Communique Issued at the End Of A National Seminar on Targeted Electoral Reforms And Enhanced Judicial Integrity IN Post-election Litigation Organised BY Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)/Transparency International in Nigeria At Sheraton Hotel, Lagos State On 30th November 2023.
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: 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:
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 critical role in the determination of political leadership through post-election litigations, hence the need to refocus attention on the role of 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 as well as judicial distrust.
5. The emerging judiciary attempts to truncate the victory of Nigerian voters constitutes a serious threat to democratic order, electoral governance and public trust.
6. Relentless effort and determination by unpatriotic political groups to sabotage electoral integrity has 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 effort must be directed towards institutional, process and procedure strengthening as we as the illicit activities of electoral practioners that backpedal reform effort.
9. Money politics coupled with unattended party nomination fees and over-commercialisation of electoral process has deprived many decent Nigerians the opportunity to compete favourably in primary elections across political parties, threatening credibility in electoral process.
10. Unethical party practices, party politics and poor implementation of party constitution is a major threat 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 procurement process of electoral materials, logistics arrangement); slow recruitment of adhoc staff; delayed response to demands; and rising political pressure.
13. Inadequate use of technology backed by lack of supporting legal provisions in 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-centralised appointment of INEC Chairman and RECs; non-transparent nomination process; 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.
18. The Law Courts have become the graveyards of electoral mandates with judges not only descending to being common purchasable judicial rogues, but also as juridical coup plotters.
19. In recent times, the major preoccupation of pro-democracy activists is no longer how to keep the military from politics and governance but how to save democracy from the judiciary.
20. Micro-managing the Law Courts by manipulating the rulings or interpretations of the law that drastically alter the balance of power, primarily to achieve political ends that would not be possible through standard electoral processes has become a serious concern.
We the participants recommended as follows:
1. Refocus attention on the broader context of reform like public acceptability, political candidates’ integrity, 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 carry members of political parties, to prevent conflict of interest in electoral process and outcomes.
3. Encourage local procurement of electoral materials to prevent systemic bottlenecks and other challenges that bedevil logistics provisions during electoral conducts.
4. Independent oversight of bureaucracy within the INEC to address over-centralisation 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.
1. Strengthening internal reform process and procedures within the electoral institution for improvement to efficiently deliver on electoral integrity, while discouraging reported sabotage and process manipulation by electoral practioners.
2. De-centralise procurement process for adequate provision of required logistics to facilitate smooth running of the electoral process and conduct that restore 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 credibility of electoral outcome to minimize judicial interference; and appoint RECs to preserve their operational integrity and standards in the conduct of elections.
7. Training and retraining programmes to boost the technical and forensic capacity of INEC Staff on efficient conduct of digital elections.
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.
6. Immediate amendment to the Electoral Act for enabling provisions that render pre-election matters not litigable after announcement of the winner of an election, while limiting post-election litigations to the conduct of the elections.
7. Enshrine in the electoral act, a provision that divests courts of the powers to declare winners and losers of electoral contests.
8. Constitutionalised the imperative to finalize the adjudication of all election petitions before the inauguration of elected officials into their offices, to prevent overriding of judicial process.
1. Re-examine selective judicialization of party supremacy giving cognisance to appropriate reform approach and procedures.
2. Harmonise various judicial rulings on electoral outcomes across the country to boost advocacy positions to exhaustively engage the National Assembly for immediate amendment of the Electoral Act.
3. Adequate specialised training and retraining programmes for judges to ensure well-informed technical interpretations that preservers judicial integrity.
4. Reduce the layers of Court involvement with clear power separation to handle pre- and post-election matters to reduce electoral litigations burden on the judiciary.
1. Continued support to the Civil Society to protect and defend democracy, rule of law and electoral governance in Nigeria.
2. Sustained and strategic advocacy by Civil Society through massive social mobilisation 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.
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-quota in party constitutions to promote equal participation of women in political leadership.
Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)
Executive Director, CISLAC