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Monday, April 15, 2024

Appeal Court president raises concern on growing spate of election dispute cases

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The President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, has expressed concern about the overwhelming number of election-related lawsuits in Nigeria, which are hindering the judiciary’s ability to address other crucial cases, including those related to the economy.

Justice Dongban-Mensem made these remarks during a special court session marking the commencement of the 2023–2024 legal year in Abuja. She revealed that the 2023 general elections had resulted in 1,209 petitions, requiring the formation of 98 panels of judges to handle them.

Breaking down the petitions, she noted that five were filed at the Presidential Election Petition Court, 147 at the senatorial election tribunals, 417 at the House of Representatives election tribunal, 557 at the House of Assembly election tribunals, and 83 focused on the governorship elections.

The President of the Court of Appeal expressed deep concern about the cost and adverse impact of electoral litigation. She noted that this flood of cases has tied down a significant number of judges, preventing them from addressing other critical matters, including commercial cases that could boost the economy.

Justice Dongban-Mensem highlighted that of the 28 states where governorship elections took place in the last general elections, only a few did not result in litigation. She also mentioned that lawsuits are already arising from primary elections ahead of off-cycle governorship elections in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi states.

She urged politicians to embrace sportsmanship and avoid turning every election into a legal battle. Justice Dongban-Mensem emphasized the importance of internal democracy within political parties and the need for politicians to prioritize national economic development over legal disputes.

In his remarks, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), condemned attacks on justices of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja. He called for a stop to extreme and partisan criticism of judges and the judiciary.

The growing volume of election-related lawsuits and their impact on the judicial system is a significant concern in Nigeria, as it ties up judicial resources and slows down the resolution of other critical legal matters.

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