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Court Decisions raise Concern about Electoral Reform

Recent decisions from courts in Nigeria regarding the 2019 general elections have raised questions about gaps in the existing election legal framework of Nigeria. Although the Supreme Court judgment in the Imo governorship election brought the matter to the fore, other judgments of the court in recent election issues have increased debates among election experts and observers about gaps in Nigeria’s elections that need to be plugged by reform of election laws. The courts have upturned elections in Imo and Bayelsa States, and upheld elections in certain States where there had been worry about the quality of elections that were conducted. The courts have also had to give judgments in a few other pre-election matters. Citizens have raised concern about the increasing role of the judiciary in elections, including the concern that people’s votes are being substituted with judicial decisions, thus impacting on the quality of Nigeria’s democracy.

In the Imo State governorship election, the Supreme Court on its own accord calculated into final results of the election, disputed votes produced by the candidate of one of the parties and used it to unilaterally declare a winner without recourse to the electoral umpire. Curiously, in the case of Bayelsa State, the Supreme Court in an about-turn, cancelled the results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for one of the candidates, quashing his election and asking INEC to recompute the results of the election without the votes of the candidate earlier announced as winner. This then produced a different winner. The implication of this for choice and democracy is now the contention. Citizens are asking that lawmakers sift out the loopholes in the current legal framework in order to severely minimise judicial interference with people’s votes.

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