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Posted Thu, Aug 24, 2023 12:49 PM

The Legal Provisions of the Election Petition Tribunal

The legal basis of the Election Tribunal in Nigeria is multifaceted, encompassing constitutional provisions, electoral acts, judicial precedents, practice directions, and international agreements. This comprehensive framework ensures that the tribunal operates within the confines of the rule of law, providing a structured and fair avenue for the resolution of electoral disputes and the safeguarding of democratic principles.

1. Constitutional Provisions: The legal foundation for the Election Tribunal in Nigeria is primarily rooted in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The relevant provisions establish the framework for the establishment, composition, jurisdiction, and powers of the tribunal. Key constitutional provisions include:

  • Section 239: This section of the Nigerian Constitution provides for the establishment of election tribunals to hear and determine petitions challenging the results of elections to various offices, including the offices of 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. Electoral Acts and Laws: The Electoral Acts in Nigeria provide the statutory framework for conducting elections and addressing electoral disputes. These acts, along with other relevant laws, further detail the processes, procedures, and powers of the Election Tribunal. Some of the key electoral laws include:

  • Electoral Act 2010 (as amended): This act lays down the procedural rules for the conduct of elections and the resolution of election-related disputes. It provides provisions on the jurisdiction of the tribunal, the timelines for filing petitions, the process of hearing and determining petitions, and the powers of the tribunal.
  • Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Third Alteration) Act, 2018: This amendment to the Constitution introduced changes to the jurisdiction of the Election Tribunal, particularly with regards to pre-election matters. It expanded the tribunal's jurisdiction to cover disputes arising from the conduct of political party primaries.

3. Judicial Precedents: Judicial precedents play a significant role in shaping the legal basis of the Election Tribunal. Decisions made by higher courts, especially the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, help interpret and clarify the provisions of the Constitution and electoral laws. These precedents set standards for how election disputes should be treated, the evidentiary standards to be met, and the principles guiding the tribunal's decisions.

4. The Practice Directions of the Tribunal: To further guide the proceedings of the Election Tribunal, various jurisdictions may issue practice directions. These directions provide specific guidelines on matters such as the filing of petitions, the conduct of hearings, the exchange of evidence, and the management of timelines. Practice directions are issued to ensure consistency in the handling of election petitions and to streamline the process.

5. International and Regional Agreements: Nigeria's commitment to upholding democratic principles and ensuring free and fair elections is also reflected in international and regional agreements to which the country is a party. Agreements such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights emphasize the importance of access to justice and effective remedies in cases of electoral disputes.

6. Role of Legal Practitioners: Legal practitioners, including judges and lawyers, play a crucial role in interpreting and applying the legal provisions that establish and govern the Election Tribunal. Their expertise ensures that the proceedings are conducted in accordance with the law and that the rights of the parties involved are respected.

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