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THREE-PRONG PATHWAY TO ELECTORAL VICTORY IN NIGERIA- NOMINATION, ELECTION AND OR LITIGATION!

In this season of general elections, we need to enlighten on the three imperative steps that guide ascension to political offices in Nigeria via the ballot box and to posit clearly that it is neither a taboo nor a big deal for anyone or political party who is dissatisfied with the outcome of an election to approach the courts by way of election petition or petitions.

Nigeria is a constitutional democracy founded on the sacred principles of rule.

Rule of law presupposes absence of arbitrariness and unwarranted recourse to self help remedy.

Simply explained, under the doctrine of rule of law, no one should take the laws into his or her hands.

Thus, any aggrieved person is reasonably expected to make a complaint to formal authorities (like the Police and or the Courts) for amicable settlement or judicial determination of the alleged wrong or wrongdoings.

With particular reference to seeking public office via elections, Nigeria has a rich array of rules that govern it as extrapolated from the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended and the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended and other adjectival laws relevant in this regard.

From the community reading of the relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution and the 2010 Electoral Act as amended, the recognised tripod stages in an electoral contest in Nigeria are *nomination,* *election* and or *litigation.*

The Nigerian constitution does not approve of independent candidacy and as such, a candidate in a general election conducted by INEC must be sponsored by an INEC registered political party.

Double or multiple sponsorship of a candidate by parties is also outlawed and translates to disqualification under the Electoral Act.

For purposes of nomination by a party as a candidate in a general election, a person must belong to a political party and participate in the party primary which may be by direct or indirect election or by consensus.

Party primary is intra-party election and involves only party members and must be conducted in sync with the Party Constitution and Guidelines which must never offend or violate the provisions of the Electoral Act and or the 1999 Constitution as amended.

A person who emerges as candidate of the party is subsequently sponsored in the general election for that office by the political party forwarding his or her name and particulars to INEC.

It must be accentuated that in tandem with the hallowed doctrine of rule of law that  forbids self help remedy, any aggrieved aspirant in the Party Primary process is duly authorised, without prejudice to the principle of party supremacy, to approach any High Court of a State, High Court of the FCT or Federal High Court to ventilate on pre-election issues.

Appeals on pre-election matters are entered at the Court of Appeal and terminate at the Supreme Court.

At the conclusion of party primaries, the political parties are expected or required to forward the names and particulars of their candidates for the general  election to INEC.

Thereafter, a general election is declared by INEC as an umpire between the political parties that have sponsored candidates in that election and in the specific positions being contested.

A general election is an inter-party contest with clearly defined rules, guidelines and timelines abstracted from the 1999 Constitution as amended, the Electoral Act 2010 as amended and applicable INEC guidelines for the conduct of such elections.

Only registered voters vote in a general election by way of thumbprinting on the logo of the party of their choices.

At the end of voting, INEC declares the candidate of the party that has satisfied the constitutional requirements and garnered the lawful majority of the votes cast  winner and issues certificate of return to the victorious candidate of the party.

No person is expected or authorised to unilaterally declare the results in a general election other than by INEC.

It is unlawful and a punishable criminal offence to declare election results Suo motu, meaning, on your own accord.

When INEC declares the final result of an election, it becomes functus officio the exercise.

Candidates and or the political parties are at this stage free to accept the result and there will be no need for litigation or legal redress.

Where however the result is  rejected or disputed, the aggrieved candidate and or political party are not left in the lurch as a window of opportunity exists for presenting election petition(s).

In this circumstance, the next and final stage therefore is litigation and that is the exclusive preserve of the courts and more particularly the Election Petition Tribunals.

The various Election Petition Tribunals set up by the Chief Justice of Nigeria have the sole responsibility to entertain petitions arising from the conduct of the elections but have no jurisdiction in pre-election matters.

All State and National Assembly election petitions end at the Court of Appeal on a final appeal while the Governorship and Presidential election petitions terminate at the Supreme Court of Nigeria and these must be within the constitutional timelines allotted for determination of election petitions.

Once the final court delivers the final judgement in appropriate election petition cases and gives a seal of judicial approval to the victory or upturns the victory at the polls or makes preservative or consequential orders, appeals lie no where else because it is in the interest of justice and public policy that there should be an end to litigations and in this case, elections.

Therefore, it is an unfettered constitutional right consistent with the rule of law for a candidate or political party that is disatissfied with the outcome of an election result to present a reasoned petition before the appropriate Election Petition Tribunal in the manner and on grounds clearly suggested by our electoral laws.

With the foregoing, it is clear that Nigeria is not a jungle where humans beings are to be killed or maimed or properties destroyed with reckless abandon because of elections or anything else for that matter.

We are clear headed to unequivocally say to our politicians and all citizens at large that instead of resort to violence, killings and arson attacks over election outcomes or any other issue, they should kindly go to court as it is their unfettered constitutional right.

No party or its candidate should be held in derision or scorn for taking the civilized option of presenting election petitions instead of resort to violence or other self help remedy.

In this same light, no party or its candidate is expected to hold the country hostage because of threat of presenting an election petition as it is a routine and intrinsic part of the reality of our constitutional order consistent with the doctrine of rule of law.

We are optimistic that as the bastion of democracy, defender of the oppressed and the last hope of the common man, our courts are well able, ready and capable to give an aggrieved person the justice of his or her case because our law reckons that for every wrong there is a remedy- ubi jus ubi redium.

Let the rule of prevail while we grow our democracy!


A new normal is possible!


Prof Obiaraeri, N.O. Ph.D (Law), B.L., etc.

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Law & Business

LAW PRACTICE IN THE FACE OF TECHNOLOGICAL DISRUPTION

Change is inevitable and the disruption it brings often causes inconvenience and opportunities. Robert Scroble.

Disruptive technology has pervaded every profession and our most noble legal profession is not an exception. It is apparent that a new dawn has arisen for legal practice world over.

The traditional practice of law by lawyers through the use of papers and hard documents is giving way to paperless lawyering with the automation of legal services. Technological innovations like virtual reality, artificial intelligence, online dispute resolution, e-learning/library, relentless connectivity, internet of things, and virtual meetings have become the order of the day.

The advantages of this technological revolution are endless as it is faster, it increases efficiency, it reduces cost, it reduces stress and it increases creativity.

There appears to be no area of law that is unaffected by this tide, from case management which is now being done electronically to client interviewing which has gone virtual.

One of the most profound trends now is Artificial Intelligence which is the use of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior. Lawyers use robots to review legal documents, conduct legal research, and proofread legal documents. In some jurisdictions, robots are used for dispute resolution.

According to an online article published by Global Legal Post on 26th February 2018, Artificial intelligence beat lawyers in a challenge to review 5 contracts containing 153 paragraphs. The challenge pitted 20 top corporate lawyers against the Law Geex AI platform. The results showed that AI completed the task in 26 seconds compared to an average of 92 minutes for the lawyers.

Social media like Linkedin, Facebook and Whatsapp are fast becoming veritable tools for lawyers in the conduct of their cases. In a US case of Romano V Steelcase [2010 WL 3703242] where the Plaintiff filed suit for injuries that she claimed caused her to be largely confined to bed. Defendant then requested discovery of content from Plaintiff’s Facebook and MySpace sites which contradicts her claim. The Supreme Court of the State of New York held that the information requested by Defendant was necessary to the defense of this action and ordered the Plaintiff to provide the Defendant with access to private postings, including deleted material, from both Facebook and MySpace.

Furthermore, with the use of Virtual Reality (a computer technology that generates realistic images, sounds and other sensations to simulate a user’s physical presence in an imaginary environment), Judges may not need to visit locus-in-quo and crime scenes, trials can also take place without a physical location.

The techno-legal disruption is so notorious that the Court in some jurisdictions has given ICT compliant landmark judgments.  Interesting among them is the Indian case of Tata Sons Limited & Ors v John Doe(S) & Ors [CS (COMM) 1601/2016] where the court the High Court of Delhi held that the Court summons can be served on the Defendant in the suit through Text message, Whatsapp, and email.

The Nigerian legal system also has not failed to adapt to the technological trend. In a ruling of 26th July 2018 Hon Justice E. A. Garba of the High Court of Taraba State in Mohammad Awwaldanlami, Esq. v Governor of Taraba State & 24 Ors (TRST/11/2018)held that the originating process and other processes of the court should be served on the 3rd to 25th Defendants/Respondents by posting and sharing on social media. Furthermore, the introduction of electronic registration of companies in Nigeria by the corporate affairs commission, e-filing in some Nigerian Courts and the creation of the Unified Multipurpose Identification (UMID) Card are all steps in the right direction.

Technological disruption in the legal profession is not without its challenges. Being a novel development that was hitherto not contemplated by legislation, there are some borderline ethical considerations. Prominent among them is the issue of data protection as it is becoming a trend for lawyers to invade social media account of parties to extract information for litigation. Many people have also questioned the ethical and legal implication of using robots to perform judicial and quasi-judicial functions.

There is no gainsaying that the technology has come to stay and will change the face of legal practice for good. Law firms must embrace it as it cannot be over flogged that only a lawyer it is only a tech-savvy that will remain relevant in the years to come.

To this end, the curriculum of legal training both at the university and at the Nigerian law school should be expanded to accommodate the latest technological trends.

The Nigerian Evidence Act among other laws should be reviewed to bring it in line with international best practices on the use of technology. It is also suggested that the age-long culture of having a well furnished physical library as part of the requirements for the Conferment of the status of Senior Advocate of Nigeria should be relaxed to allow for more progressive options of a virtual library.

Since the law will always be one step behind technology, it is suggested that best practices legislation should be put in place to tackle the budding challenges of the techno-legal practice.