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A former Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), yesterday advocated an amendment of the 1999 Constitution to remove the 180 days requirement stipulated for the resolution of election petition disputes.
Osinbajo made the suggestion at the seventh annual Chief Alao Aka-Bashorun lecture organised by the Ikeja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Lagos.
Osibajo in his lecture titled: ‘Electoral Justice as a Panacea for Peaceful Transition,’ said the provision was “a deadly virus that kills electoral justice. The 180 days allowed is the time that all of the parties must present their evidence and call their witnesses.
“It includes Saturdays and Sundays when the Election Petition Tribunals do not sit.
“The tribunal must also review the evidence and give judgment within the 180 days. So the chance of a petitioner getting a fair hearing is very slim.”
According to him, majority of the election petitions that arose from the 2011 general election were resolved in favour of the respondents as a result of the 180 days time limit.
Osinbajo said it was clear that electoral disputes, especially those involving gubernatorial and presidential elections, could not be resolved within that time frame.
“It is my recommendation that Section 285 (6) and (7) of the Constitution should be either amended or interpreted in a way that the 180 days requirement can be extended by the court,” he said.
In the alternative, the professor of law urged the Supreme Court to issue a practise directive on how election petition matters should be handled in the country.
According to him, the directive should also make it mandatory for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to produce Certified True Copies of the election documents for the use of the petitioner.
Osinbajo said forensic evidence should be more proactively used and admitted in the resolution of election petitions.
He said: “It is an urgent requirement before the next election. The Supreme Court and all of us, have a duty to amend the current state of our electoral laws.”
Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), who chaired the lecture, said the elite of the legal profession should be in the forefront of the campaign to end electoral injustice in Nigeria.
Olanipekun saidAka-Bashorun, a former President of the NBA, made immense contribution to the advancement of the legal profession and democratic governance in Nigeria.
He said the late legal icon was one of the advocates of the Sovereign National Conference and lived his life for the betterment of the nation.
On his part, the NBA, Ikeja branch Chairman, Mr Onyekachi Ubani, warned that Nigeria could not experience growth and development without a credible electoral system.
“Free and fair election is a sine qua non for growth and development.
“We must try to organise a credible election that will usher in the leadership that will put the country on the right path,” Ubani said.