Time Limitation in Election Petitions in Nigeria: The Imperative for Further Constitutional Reforms
It cannot be gainsaid that the extant provisions of the Constitution of Nigeria on this issue is Section 285 (5), (6) and (7) of the 1999 Constitution. Prior to the enactment of the above provisions, which became effective or operational from the 16th day of July 2010, pursuant to or in consonance with the Constitution (First Alteration) Act 2010, otherwise called Act No. 1. The problem was that for the office of the Governor, President, National Assembly or State House of Assembly, which was all for a term or tenure of four (4) years, the observance of the requirement in Section 36 (1) that fair hearing be accorded parties in election petition matters was obeyed more in the breach. This led to grave injustices or travesty of justice as many electoral matters lapsed due to the time-wasting antics of some legal practitioners. As a result, “election petitions continued to be heard for many years and in some cases, the appeals in the Court of Appeal will be pending when the next election is held, thereby rendering the petition or appeal… otiose and academic”. After about six (6) years of practice, there are still noticeable lapses or lacuna inherent in the application of these constitutional limitations that require immediate iconoclastic legislative action bordering on further constitutional amendment. This study highlights them and shall review the decision of our apex court (the Supreme Court) on this issue with a view to making reform projections that will foster the proper respect for Nigeria’s constitutional development and make room for the upliftment of the rights to access to court/justice and elevate the right to be heard to a higher palladium or pedestal. If implemented, the recommendations will edify our current judicial practice, reform our extant procedural methodology and launch Nigeria further into the midst of working democratic models worthy of emulation at the global stage. That is the thrust of this study.
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