Good Governance Part 16
Dec 30 2018
- Your vote is your life, please exercise it wisely. As promised last week, today we are discussing pre-election matters as it relates to the fourth alteration of the Nigerian constitution.
- Pre-election matters are issues bothering on the election but which occurred prior to the conduct of the general election. It is the opposite of post-election matters otherwise known as election petition matters.
- The commonest of pre-election matter is primary, trailed behind by qualification issues. In other words, where the primary of a political party is not conducted in line with Nigeria constitution, Electoral Act, the Party constitution, party guidelines or the INEC guidelines and regulations, an aggrieved aspirant can challenge such in court.
- Hitherto, such issues were regarded as internal party affairs which the court will not dabble into. However, current electoral laws allows the court to interfere in those narrow areas enumerated above. Again, where after the display of the qualification of a candidate, a defect or inadequacy is noticed, it can be challenged in court.
- An example is where the candidate fails to meet the minimum academic or age requirements. It is when these sort of matters are taking to courts that they become pre-election cases. The cases can be taken up at any of the High courts, be it federal or state.
- Prior to the enactment of the fourth alteration to the constitution, such pre-election matters operated like the usual civil matters and therefore capable of lingering on till the end of the tenure being challenged.
- There was no strict regulation of the proceedings, particularly in terms of time limitation like election petition. The essence of the fourth alteration is therefore to regulate proceedings under pre-election matters.
- By the new alteration now, such complaints must be brought within 14 days from the occurrence of the event, decision or action complained of in the suit. Once the complainant fails to do this, such complaint cannot be brought again.
- Furthermore, by the alteration, a court cannot determine again preliminary objection alone, leaving the substantive issues placed before it. Both must be pronounced upon. The wisdom in this is that the habit of frustrating the substance of the cases on the strength of preliminary objection is thereby eliminated.
- Before this introduction, this style of hanging the substantive issue with preliminary objection that travels back and forth to the Supreme Court was the order of the day. A new introduction is also that such pre-election cases now must be concluded within a period of 180 days as in election petition cases.
- There is now a time limitation unlike before. Again, appeal arising from the final decision must be filed within 14 days and determined within 6o days maximum. Beyond all these, the alteration now also allows political parties to directly challenge the actions or omissions of INEC.
- Also an aspirant can also now challenge INEC on the same grounds. Finally, by the alteration, it is also now legally impossible for a court to declare any person a winner of an election in which he has not fully participated in all the stages.
- This is the summary of the issues arising under the fourth alteration and it is only hoped that aspirants will continue to take advantage of it. This is more so when our votes eventually determine our lives.