NBA (Lagos) Electoral Reforms Sensitization Committee 2023 Elections; The Bar And The Bench As Democratic Drivers

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Electoral Act 2022 Clause 84 (12): When two elephants fight

THE SALIENT INNOVATIONS IN THE ELECTORAL ACT

The fact that laws are not self-executory and the outcome of the election will be a reflection of our collective value and commitment. As much as the problem of our country is not a lack of laws but the implementation of it in all aspects, some innovative changes have been made to the Electoral Act. For instance, Section 49 of the previous Act which politicians have exploited over the years. In section 49(2), the presiding officer must be satisfied but there are no objective criteria to determine so. However, Sec 47 has cured that mischief as the presiding officer must now use technology for the purpose of accreditation. Bimodal accreditation now makes use of facial accreditation.

It is noteworthy that Section 53 of the old Act encouraged politicians to snatch ballot papers and commit other atrocities. Overvoting was based on the total number of registered voters which INEC kicked against. Fortunately, the new Act is now based on the number of accredited voters. This means that a new register can be produced based on the total number of accredited voters.

Also, Section 65 of the new Act makes it clear that where a declaration is contrary to the act or was done under duress, it will be reviewed within 7 days by the electoral commission and not until it gets to a tribunal anymore plus Section 137 that has now made it possible to do away with oral evidence.

What are the roles of lawyers in post-election petitions?

If pre-election disputes spill over till after the election, they still remain pre-election disputes. Take  Salim v. CPC 2013 and Ubar v. Ukachukwu, Igbekele v. INEC as prime examples ( a challenge to the decision of INEC to conduct a supplementary election under section 251) The Court held that once an election commences the only place to resolve the dispute is the election tribunal.

This begs the question, what is the constitutionality of Section 64 and 65 of the new Act that gives INEC the right to review certain anomalies, with reference to section 30 of the Electoral Act especially if INEC officials direct a rerun without redress to the Court?

The role of lawyers in the election petition, starting with rule 15 of the rules of professional conduct is to present their cases in such a manner as to give judicial recognition to the will of the electorate. It is not a very correct procedure for the Court to supplant or replace the will of the electorates under any circumstance as it does not align with the role the Court should play in the judicial process since democracy is the corporate decision of the majority.

The irony of this is that some decisions in which the Court nullifies an election and brings in someone else (for example Bayelsa state issue), on the basis of an irregularity which was not known to the electorate and did not inform the decision of the majority, will usurp their rights. That being said, lawyers are urged to advance a course in which the Court will uphold the decision of the majority.

This is because the election petition is a science and the role of a lawyer is to try to be very scientific as a challenger, mathematically making a case for the increase of the return of his clients or reduction of the votes of the challenger. Lawyers should not make or create evidence for their client, it is professional misconduct and Lawyers should not cross the lines of the rules of professional conduct

ROLES OF LAWYERS IN PARTICIPATING IN ELECTIONS AND THE ELECTORAL PROCESS

Every lawyer is politically inclined and his place is typically reserved for a number of reasons one of which is as a result of some colleagues who chose to break the jinx of poor participation in the electoral process.

The expected attributes of a lawyer are good communication skills, judgment, analytical skills, public speaking skills, decision making, comprehension skills etc. Lawyers are social engineers and can use the tool to solve political issues.  Why do lawyers need to seek elective positions?

  1. Changes start from inside and not from outside and so lawyers with credible characters can take up such positions which will reflect the changes we desire. A lawyer can by training carry out various positions since he understands the legal process
  2.  It also creates a platform for lawyers to meet with others from other industries

Lawyers need to see politics as a vocation to humanity just as they see the law to serve the good of the common man and it is recommended that the NBA push for a bill to make the legislative arm have a percentage of lawyers in the legislature

SAFETY AS A FINANCIER OF PEACEFUL ELECTIONS AND EXECUTIVE AND NIGERIA’S DEMOCRACY

The Executive is given the function of providing governance. Sadly,  the Executive arm has not done enough in enhancing our democratic practice. It continues to encroach in other arms failing to carry out its own primary responsibilities. For example, the executive’s interference in the appointment of judicial officers, forceful impeachment of governors, using executive might to frustrate the judiciary; the issue of funding, executive interference in the electoral process etc.

  1. Lawyers must keep agitating for the enforcement of accountability
  2. Strengthening of strong institutions against personalities
  3. Investing and funding
  4. Revamp the legal system, self-sustenance of the legal system

Police officers are expected to provide security at the polling centres, allow peaceful count, collation and declaration of results, prevent violence that can disrupt, and secure the safety of all election personnel and materials among other responsibilities.

With the reforms done in the electoral act, the police’s job has been made easier although not entirely as there is a need for sensitization of people to get the electioneering process right by allowing themselves to be policed, the proportion of officers providing security and the number of electorates.

Thankfully measures have been put in place to ensure a peaceful election through lectures by INEC, training of police officers by the police and motivational reward systems


THIS IS REFLECTIONS, our weekly roundup of events in the legal and technology sector, covering various topics and interesting learning points for today’s professionals.

This article is a round-up of the NBA (Lagos) Electoral Reforms Sensitization Committee event themed THE BAR AND THE BENCH AS DEMOCRATIC DRIVERS.

Do you have an upcoming event you would like us to know about or attend? OR do you know of one you would like to read about? Send an email to us HERE.

Q&A

Q: IF INEC SHOULD MAINTAIN ITS NEUTRALITY THROUGHOUT ELECTORAL PROCESS, WHY THEN SHOULD INEC DEFEND THE ELECTORAL PROCESS?

A: INEC should be neutral in pre-election disputes. It should be limited to its observations at the primaries and not take partisan position. The complaints in election petition most times are against INEC because you are challenging the conduct of the election. It is the responsibility of INEC to defend the conduct of elections done by it e.g. Over voting, election materials etc. each situation should be judged based on its own merit.

Q: HOW DOES THE POLICE DEAL WITH THE POWER OF INCUMBENCY IN ENSURING PEACEFUL ELECTION?

A: Any government in power has a duty to ensure peaceful election. The sanctity of the election itself is not the duty of INEC. Most of the actions of the police are ordered by INEC. The police are just a tool in the hands of INEC during the period of election. It is the duty of the incumbent to ensure peaceful elections.

SOURCE: LAW PAVILLION

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