EXAMINATION OF TIME LIMIT FOR ELECTION PETITIONS AND FAIR HEARING UNDER THE 1999 CONSTITUTION
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Keywords

Elections
Constitution
Time limit
Petitions

How to Cite

KUDIRAT MAGAJI W. OWOLABI. (2018). EXAMINATION OF TIME LIMIT FOR ELECTION PETITIONS AND FAIR HEARING UNDER THE 1999 CONSTITUTION. Unimaid Journal of Public Law, 5(2), 73 - 87. Retrieved from http://journals.unimaid.edu.ng/index.php/unimaid-journal-of-public-law/article/view/87

Abstract

Change just for the sake of change is not necessarily good. But change to adapt to situation is survival. Adapt or lose.  Ostensibly, due to the need to rein in the undesirous spectra of interminable electoral litigations, Section 285 (6) & (7) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was amended to introduce time delimitation to election petitions and appeals. Amendment of the 1999 constitution has pegged the filling of petitions to 21 days after election results are declared. The petition shall be heard within 180 days and determined at the lower tribunal, while any appeal arising there shall be disposed of within 60 days. It is improper to hold that the 180 days provided in the constitution is not limited to trials but also de novo trials that may be ordered by an appeal court, considering the slow process of civil litigation in tribunals and courts in Nigeria and numbers of petitions and appeals. While the apparent intention behind this Constitutional amendment was to further the goal of achieving fair trials of electoral disputes expeditiously within delimited periods, these good intentions have taken us on unsavory journeys of unhelpful judicial construction, the end result of which finds justice lying prostrate and crushed in the dust. This article illustrates with decided cases the inconsistency of the two subsections with Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution and the principle of fair hearing. The issue as to whether a specific time span should be stipulated within which election petitions must be concluded has always generated heated and unending debates. The article will examine the application of the right to fair hearing within a reasonable time in Nigeria with respect to election petition cases to determine the extent of its applicability in view of the recent amendments of the constitution and the Electoral Act. This article attempts a critical analysis of a recent Supreme Court of Nigeria’s decision that may have profound implications on the behavior of litigants in cases involving electoral disputes and judges who hear these cases. The paper recommends that Section 285 (6) & (7) be amended to take care of retrial of petitions by providing for a separate time limit. Also that the Supreme Court when faced with the interpretation of such constitutional provisions, should adopt a liberal judicial attitude that allows the aggrieved person to be heard rather than a strict interpretation that slams the door of the court against them. The right to be heard is a cardinal principle of justice that ought not to be temper with.

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