Akpabio seeks use of ADR to resolve electoral disputes

Senate President, Godswill Akpabio



Senate President Godswill Akpabio has called for the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms to resolve electoral disputes in order to reduce burden on the judiciary

Akpabio expressed worry on Thursday that politicians had over-burdened the judiciary with too much electoral disputes.

He, therefore, said that there was need to encourage a mandatory use of ADR mechanisms for certain types of electoral disputes to reduce burden on the courts.

The senate president said this in his address at the opening of a five-day retreat of Joint Technical Committee of the National Assembly on Electoral Reforms. The event held at Marriot Hotel, Ikeja.

Akpabio was represented by a former Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), Dr Monday Ubani.

He said that the truth remained that the judiciary was burdened with too much electoral disputes.

“May I advise that encouraging and mandating the use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms for certain types of electoral disputes could alleviate the burden on Nigerian courts and expedite the dispute resolution process.

“Our electoral law can mandate that process to sanitize the system.

“During the 2023 General Elections in Nigeria, several sections of the Electoral Act of 2022 were highlighted as potentially problematic, necessitating further review and possible amendments to enhance the electoral process.

“These concerns generally revolve around the operationalization of the Act, technological innovations introduced, judicial role and interpretation of the Act and the legal frameworks governing the conduct of elections.”

Akpabio said that the judiciary stood at a crucial juncture in the journey toward further strengthening of the foundation of democracy and ensuring that the will of the people would be accurately reflected and respected in every ballot.

“The task before us, the National Assembly through this committee, is not just a matter of legislative reforms, it is a testament to our dedication to enhance the electoral process, making it more transparent, inclusive and fair.

“The Electoral Act of 2022, which remains a significant milestone, is a living document that requires our continuous scrutiny, evaluation and improvement to meet the evolving needs of our society and the aspirations of our people,” he said.

Akpabio listed the problematic areas in the Electoral Act of 2022 to include electronic transmission of results, accreditation process, pre-election litigation time frames, campaign finance, party primaries and candidate nomination and inclusion, among others.

He said: “As we embark on this collective endeavour, I urge each and every one of us, including our partners, to approach our discussions and deliberations with an open mind, a spirit of collaboration and a shared vision for a better Nigeria.

“Our goal is not only to address the challenges and shortcomings we have faced during the just-concluded elections of 2023 but also to anticipate future challenges and opportunities, ensuring that our electoral system is very robust, resilient and significantly responsive.

“This retreat provides us with a unique opportunity to pool our knowledge, experiences and ideas to forge practical, innovative solutions that will stand the test of time.

“Let us leverage this great opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue with major stakeholders and fellow Nigerians, build consensus and emerge with actionable strategies that will further refine and enhance the Electoral Act, paving the way for elections that will be more agreeable, credible, peaceful and reflective of the true democratic ethos of our great nation.”

The Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Reforms, Rep. Adebayo Balogun, in his welcome address, had said that the leadership of the 10th National Assembly was fully committed to positive and people-driven electoral reforms.

Balogun said that the committee had been guided to work across party lines and in the best interest of the nation to strengthen the electoral legal framework.

“We are very much aware that there are some requests for amendments to the Electoral Act, 2022, that will require changes to be made to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Therefore, as a matter of necessity, our technical committee also has members such as the deputy president of the Senate and the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, who are chairman and co-chair of the Constitution Amendment Committees of the National Assembly.

“This will allow us to bring the amendment to the Electoral Act in alignment with the constitution through the ongoing review of our laws, as may be necessary.

“We intend to test the expected electoral reforms with one or two off-season elections of 2025.”

Balogun assured Nigerians that the committee would do more than expected. (NAN)

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