Lawyers seek probe of funding sources for election petition by incumbent
Lawyers under the auspices of the Human Rights Law Service (HURILAWS) has stressed the need to investigate the sources of funding for election petition process by a respondent, who is an incumbent and has access to state resources.
Its Legal Officer, Collins Okeke, stated this yesterday in Abuja at a dialogue on strengthening the election petitions process in Nigeria through constitutional and electoral amendments.
Okeke said failure to set up a system to checkmate sources of funds used by incumbents, would put the petitioner at a disadvantage where the respondent could draw funds from state resources to hire the best advocates to defend a petition.
He lamented that the petitioner with his or her limited personal funds would continue to struggle to retain relatively inexperienced lawyers to prosecute the petition with the weight of burden or onus of proof the petitioner is expected to discharge if the system remains unchecked.
He advocated a review of Section 285 and the judicial system to achieve the aim of ending election petitions on time and also achieve justice.
“Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution and Section 134 of the Electoral Act need to be amended to provide exceptions to election petition timelines
“For instance, for days to stop counting where there is a stay of proceedings and for days to start counting afresh where there is an order for de novo hearing of an election petition,” he stated.
Admitting that HURILAWS was in support of all just measures proposed to curtail the time spent in endless election petitions, Okeke insisted that the measures must be holistic and not limited to simply throwing out a petition or nullifying a judgement, acts which simply mete out injustice to the litigant who has done all required by law to do.
He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the 2018 Electoral Act (Amendment Bill) into law, arguing that this would address some of the challenges identified with election petitions process like the issue of access to election petition materials and use of card readers.
“On access to and high cost of procuring relevant election documents needed for election petitions, HURILAWS recommends that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should immediately after announcing result of an election make available certified copies of relevant election documents (at no cost) to political parties to facilitate fair challenges against the election outcome,” he added.