By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja
The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, believes setting a timeframe for pre-election litigations has finally laid to rest the challenges that come with protracted legal tussles in the nation’s young democracy.
According to a statement signed by his Special Adviser (Media), Uche Anichukwu, reacting to the signing of four more Constitution Alteration Acts by President Muhammadu Buhari, Ekweremadu, who is also the Chairman, Senate Committee on Constitution Review, said it showed that that Nigeria’s democracy was coming of age.
“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 5th Senate was challenged, he had already finished his tenure and was into another tenure in the 6th Senate when the tribunal ruled that he did not win the initial election into the 5th Senate, which he had already enjoyed to the fullest.
“Therefore, what we did in 2010 was to amend the constitution to set a timeframe 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.
With this amendment, the distractions and agitations that come with delay of justice will now belong to the past. People will no longer enjoy for a long time mandates that are not theirs. Likewise real winners, say of party primaries, will not wait for too long again to assume their mandates.
“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 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 discharged their constitutional responsibilities “without any hindrances and without fear or favour at the state level”.
He commended the President as well as members of the National Assembly and State Assemblies for acting in National interest, urging President Buhari to also append his signature to the remaining amendments before him.