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Posted Thu, Aug 24, 2023 12:52 PM

The Jurisdiction of the Election Tribunal in Nigeria

The jurisdiction of the Election Tribunal in Nigeria is established by the Constitution and electoral laws. It encompasses both original and appellate jurisdiction, covering various types of elections and issues related to their conduct, outcome, and legality. The expansion of its jurisdiction to include pre-election matters further enhances its role in ensuring fair and transparent electoral processes.

1. Constitutional and Statutory Basis: The jurisdiction of the Election Tribunal is rooted in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and is further defined and elaborated upon in various electoral laws and acts. Key provisions in the Constitution include:

  • Section 239: This section establishes the jurisdiction of election tribunals to hear and determine petitions challenging the results of various elections, including those for the President, Governors, National Assembly members, and State House of Assembly members.
  • Section 285: This section outlines the time limits within which election petitions must be filed and the time frame within which the tribunals must deliver judgments.

2. Types of Jurisdiction: The jurisdiction of the Election Tribunal can be broadly categorized into two main types:

  • Original Jurisdiction: Election tribunals have original jurisdiction to hear and determine election petitions directly filed before them. This involves disputes related to the conduct, outcome, and legality of various elections.
  • Appellate Jurisdiction: Election tribunals also have an appellate jurisdiction to hear appeals from decisions of lower courts or bodies in electoral matters. This jurisdiction allows for a higher-level review of decisions that have been made by lower courts or bodies.

3. Specific Jurisdictional Areas: The Election Tribunal's jurisdiction covers a range of specific areas related to elections:

  • Presidential and Gubernatorial Elections: The tribunal has jurisdiction over petitions challenging the results of presidential and gubernatorial elections, including issues related to the validity of the election, the conduct of the election, and the qualifications of the candidates.
  • National Assembly and State House of Assembly Elections: The tribunal can hear petitions challenging the outcome of elections for members of the National Assembly and State House of Assembly. This includes issues related to the conduct of elections, voter eligibility, and candidate qualifications.
  • Political Party Primaries: The jurisdiction of the Election Tribunal has been expanded to include disputes arising from political party primaries. This means that the tribunal can hear cases involving challenges to the conduct of party primaries, candidate selection, and party internal processes.

4. Pre-Election Jurisdiction: In addition to post-election jurisdiction, the Election Tribunal has gained pre-election jurisdiction to hear disputes arising from the conduct of political party primaries. This extension of jurisdiction aims to ensure that the selection of candidates within political parties adheres to democratic processes and party rules.

5. Evidentiary Jurisdiction: The tribunal has the power to summon witnesses, receive evidence, and subpoena documents as part of its evidentiary jurisdiction. This allows it to thoroughly examine the evidence presented by the parties involved in the dispute.

6. Limitations and Exclusions: While the Election Tribunal has a broad jurisdiction over election-related matters, there are certain limitations and exclusions. For instance, the tribunal's jurisdiction may not extend to certain issues that are considered outside its purview, such as matters involving the internal affairs of political parties that do not directly relate to the electoral process.

7. Appeals and Appellate Jurisdiction: Decisions made by the Election Tribunal can be appealed to higher courts, including the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. This appellate jurisdiction ensures that parties have the opportunity to seek further review of decisions they find unsatisfactory.

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