Justice Rhodes-Vivour Retires from Supreme Court, Seeks Election Petition Reform

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* Wants burden of proof shifted to INEC

* Berates governors for truncating LG administration

By Alex Enumah

A retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, on Monday as part of his parting message to the judiciary and indeed Nigerians called for an amendment to the Electoral Act that would shift the burden of proof from a petitioner to the electoral umpire.

Rhodes-Vivour, who retired from the bench of the Supreme Court on Monday, March 22, having attained the mandatory 70 years for retirement, also took a swipe at governors who are truncating local government administration in their states.

“I intend to comment on some issues in the law and related matters,” he said.

Among the issues he brought to the fore are issues of corruption, insecurity, inheritance and precedence in law, amongst others.

Citing a judgment he delivered in an election matter, Rhodes-Vivour said: “A careful reading and understanding of decided authorities show that a petitioner has an uphill task proving his petition in accordance with the Electoral Act.”

While noting that a petitioner is “always saddled with difficult requirements and procedures” to prove electoral malpractices in an election, he suggested that the “Electoral Act should be amended to shift the burden of proof to INEC to prove that it conducted a fair and reasonable election”.

On the issue of local government autonomy, Rhodes-Vivour noted that governors act on their “whims and fancies unknown to our laws, clearly illegal”, when they dissolve elected local government councils and replace them with caretaker committees.

According to him, it is the duty of governors to ensure that the system of local government continues unhindered.

“It amounts to executive recklessness for the governor to remove from office democratically elected chairmen and councillors under whatever guise. It is illegal and wrong,” he said.

Meanwhile, he decried the high level of corruption in the country and called for concerted efforts in bringing it to the barest minimum.

“Corruption exists in all the countries of the world. Nigeria is no exception. What should be done is to reduce it drastically thereby making our dear country an exception by building credible and transparent systems,” Justice Rhodes-Vivour stated.

In a remark, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, described Rhodes-Vivour as an “affable brother justice” who diligently and meticulously offered unquantifiable services to Nigeria and humanity.

“We are all here today to felicitate with an accomplished jurisprudential iconoclast that has offered the best of his intellect to the advancement of the legal profession through his several years of inimitable adjudications,” the CJN stated.

According to the CJN, “His Lordship is a rare gem and unblemished symbol of humility and piety.

“His proficiency in the dispensation of justice, which is anchored on his mastery of law, presents him as a man of honour and scholarship.

“His judgments are not only incisive but also analytical and opulent by all standards.”