Participants at a one day conference of Section on Legal Practice, SLP, organised by the Nigerian Bar Association in Port Harcourt the Rivers State Capital, have agreed that democracy will be further entrenched in Nigeria if all critical stakeholders work to make the nation’s electoral process transparent, free and fair during the 2019 general elections in the country.
The conference , a brainchild of the NBA’s Committee on Democratic Process and Legal Litigation has as its theme : ” The Role of Litigation in the 2019 Nigeria Electoral Process”, was chaired by the President, Court of Appeal, Hon. Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa who was represented by the Presiding Judge of the Federal Court of Appeal in Rivers State, Honourable Justice Alli Gumel.
During the Showpiece section which has as its sub-theme: “INEC, Judicial Interventions and the Cumulonimbus of Nigeria’s Elections: Bringing 2019 under the radar”, Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN shared his experience as a leading counsel in several electoral matters to defend security reasons usually adduced by election tribunals for moving court sittings from proximate jurisdiction to a secured place.
Arakunrin Akeredolu who is a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association and a Life Bencher expressed disatisfaction at the conduct of some lawyers who often aided litigants to mislead courts to give conflicting judgements on the same matter.
On the roles of the Independent National Electoral Commission during the primaries of political parties, Arakunrin Akeredolu said the electoral body should be more constitutionally involved to end the current practice of being a mere observer.
He believed the current role of INEC was prone to abuses and as such should be more constitutionally defined to checkmate manipulations by party officials.
He added that an aspirant who obtained a nomination form from his party should be dully recognized as a participant in an election so that he would have the legal standing to approach the court for adjudication should his party disqualified him.
On the deployment of Card Reader machine for election, Arakunrin Akeredolu said the data generated by it on the day of election and stored in INEC server should essentially be the needed output for litigation and not necessarily the machines used on election day.
Governor Akeredolu who however disagreed that with a claim that all elections in Nigeria would end up in litigations said that his election as Governor of Ondo State did not generate any litigation despite the fact that his co-contestants were top rated lawyers who two of them are Senior Advocates of Nigeria.
He posited that the involvement of more senior lawyers in partisan politics could probably end needless litigations in the nation’s electoral process.
In his opening address the Governor of Rivers State Chief Nyesom Wike called for a free and fare election that would not be characterized by needless litigations.
He believed Nigeria electoral process be made credible to dissuade politicians from vote buying, imposition of candidates and militarisation of the elections.
The INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu used the occasion to assure Nigerians that the electoral umpire was getting set to conduct credible polls come 2019.
The INEC Chairman presented by Mr Festus Okoye appealed to the political class and the electorate to work hand in gloves with the electoral body at making votes count for the purpose of enhancing the sanctity of the ballot box thereby deepening the tenets of democracy in Nigeria.