Ekweremadu: Why We Set Time Frame for Pre-election Litigations

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By Deji Elumoye in Abuja

Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has explained why the National Assembly set a time frame through constitutional amendment for the resolution of pre-election matters in the country.

Ekweremadu, in a statement issued in Abuja yesterday, emphasised that setting a timeframe for pre-election litigations has finally laid to rest the challenges that come with protracted legal tussles in the country’s  democracy.

Ekweremadu, who is also the Chairman, Senate Committee on Constitution Review, said the recent constitutional amendments including that bordering on pre-election litigations which President Buhari assented to last Friday showed that Nigeria’s democracy was coming of age.

With this amendment, he explained that the distractions and agitation that come with delay of justice will now belong to the past.

According to him, “ people will no longer enjoy for a long time mandateds that are not theirs ,likewise real winners say of party primaries will not wait for too long again to assume their mandates”.

  “This is another major leap for our democracy, especially our elections. I recall that even though the election in 2003 of one of my colleagues in the Fifth Senate was challenged, he had already finished his tenure and was into another tenure in the Sixth Senate when the tribunal ruled that he did not win the initial election into the Fifth Senate, which he had already enjoyed to the fullest.

Ekweremadu  further  explained that “ what we did in 2010 was to amend the constitution to set a time frame for filing, hearing, and delivery of judgment/returns on election petitions. Such petitions must be filed within 21 days, judgment must be delivered within 180 days from the date of filing of the petition, while every appeal arising from the tribunal or Court of Appeal must be delivered 60 days from the date of the delivery of judgment by the tribunal or Court of Appeal.

“However, whereas post-election matters regarding the 2015 general elections have since been determined, many pre-election matters are still lingering in the courts, about eight months to the next general elections. So, the current amendment solves the problems associated with protracted pre-election litigations by extending the same success achieved with setting timeframe for determination of post-election litigations to pre-election lawsuits.

“If we add this to the Not-Too-Young-To-Run amendment and several other election-related amendments to the Constitution in 2010, such as granting of financial and administrative autonomy to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), removal of membership of a political party as a qualification for appointment as a member or Chairman of INEC, reduction in the number of judges and quorum of election petition tribunals, and the abrogation of the disqualification of persons by administrative panels, it means that our democracy is coming of age”, he further said.

On the granting of financial autonomy to the State Houses of Assembly and State judiciaries, Ekweremadu said such was intended to ensure that both arms of government discharge their constitutional responsibilities “without any hindrances and without fear or favour at the state level”.

He further  urged President Buhari to also append his signature to the remaining constitutional  amendments before him.