SAN wants Supreme Court final determiner of state assembly election petitions

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Olalekan Ojo, has called for an amendment to the law empowering the Court of Appeal as the final determiner of House of Assembly election petitions.

Mr Ojo, in an interview in Ibadan, Oyo State, on Sunday, suggested that such powers should be invested in the Supreme Court.

The constitutional lawyer spoke against the sacking of the 16 members of the Plateau State assembly elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party by the appellate court, which deemed their party primaries defective.

However, the Supreme Court declared the state governor, Caleb Mutfwang, the PDP candidate, as the true winner of the 2023 governorship election in the state.

The development generated tension, with the aggrieved sacked lawmakers seeing the court of appeal judgment as a miscarriage of justice and attempting to forcibly resume duties at the assembly.

Mr Ojo, who described the case of the PDP lawmakers as a ‘remediless injury,’ said that the situation called for the need to empower the Supreme Court to be the final determiner of house of assembly election petitions.

This, he said, had become necessary to guard against such political logjam.

“It is better to allow the Supreme Court to be the final court to determine house of assembly election petitions because of situations like this.

“No matter how unpalatable the decision of the appeal court may be, it is the final determiner of house of assembly election petitions. Unfortunately, the sacked house of assembly members do not have the law on their side because there is no right of further appeal for them.

“There is a popular saying that where there is any wrong or injury, there is a remedy.

“But what is happening in Plateau is an exception to that saying, as the constitution says that they don’t have a right of further appeal. This is one of the reasons the appeal court’s decisions should not be the final in any case because the sacked lawmakers would have appealed the judgment if there had been such an opportunity. Their case is like appealing against the pronouncement of the Supreme Court; it cannot stand,” he said.

The legal expert, however, advised the sacked lawmakers not to resort to use of force in achieving their aim.

“The situation in which they have found themselves is a remediless injury and it is a pity. I think that they should rather appeal to their governor to compensate them with some other things,” he said.

In his own view, a professor of African History at the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Isaac Albert, expressed sadness that judicial pronouncements, especially on electoral matters, were usually characterised by confusions and bitter memories in Nigeria.

“It is obvious that the judgment of the appeal court on the house of assembly members is wrong, but unfortunately, nobody has any solution to it. I think the judiciary is not helping in the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria, judging from the series of conflicting decisions made by them.

This, according to Albert, is why Nigerians are calling for judicial reforms to enhance the restoration of the institutional credibility of the judiciary. Also, there is the need to address the procedural credibility in the judicial system.

“There is equally the issue of personal credibility among the judges. All these, if addressed, will enable Nigerians to respect and trust the judiciary. The National Judicial Council surely has a long way to go in managing the personal credibility of many of its members,” the don said.

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