Election petitions arising from the 2019 general elections are 129 more than those filed before various election petitions in the 2015 election cycle, records obtained by The PUNCH from the Court of Appeal have shown.
Commenting on this, lawyers told The Punch it was an indication that the electoral process was getting worse.
Lawyers who spoke with The PUNCH said the increase showed a worsening state of the nation’s electoral system.
A former second Vice-President of the Nigeria Bar Association, Mr Monday Ubani, said, “There is no better indicator to show that the conduct of the 2019 elections was worse than that of the 2015. It shows that this year’s elections were less credible than the 2015 elections leading to more grievances.
“It also shows that we would have had fewer disputes if President Muhammadu Buhari had signed the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill into law by which the election would have been conducted electronically.
“I must also say that we witnessed more participation of officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission this year than in the previous elections. They were far more partisan and willing to do the bidding of the highest bidder this year.”
Another lawyer, Mr Stanley Imhanruor, toed the same line of argument in a separate chat with our correspondent.
Imhanruour said, “The fact that we have more election petition cases in 2019 than we had in 2015 is the clearest testament that we are not making progress as a country in our electoral process; a classic case of one step forward and 10 steps backward.”
He said, “Unless the Electoral Act is further amended before the 2023 general elections, we may be in for more electoral disputations in our courts.
“The events that trailed the burial given to the Electoral Amendment Bill of 2018 are typical examples of how a ruling political party can go into a frenzy about any proposed radical amendment to the electoral process that will whittle down the advantages of the incumbency.”
The Chairman of the Civil Society Network Against Corruption, Mr Lanre Suraj, said the upsurge in electoral disputes was an indication of both the absence of internal democracy in political parties and poor electoral process.
He said, “It means that the internal democracy in the parties is being eroded. It deprives popular members of parties to openly and fairly contest for party tickets. Some of them who even won the party primaries had tickets that were supposed to be given to them handed to those who did not contest. That is the first major concern and it is not peculiar to the opposition parties but also in the ruling party.
“The other one is the electoral process itself. It is about how credible the process for people to trust the outcome. There were issues of missing logos from the ballot papers. All these issues impacted on the outcome of the election.”
About 250 judges who sat over electoral disputes arising from the 2019 polls had to contend with a total of 806 cases across the country.
Conversely, their counterparts who presided over the various election petitions in 2015 only had 677 petitions filed before them. This represents about 19 per cent increase in the number of disputes from the two election cycles.
In 2015, there was no presidential election petition after the then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan lost to President Muhammadu Buhari.
But in 2019, four presidential election petitions were filed, although two of them were withdrawn before hearing commenced.
In 2015, there were 39 governorship election petitions as against 63 filed in 2019.
In both years, governorship elections were conducted in 30 states during the general elections as the six remaining states, Ondo, Osun, Bayelsa, Ekiti, Kogi and Anambra hold theirs on staggered dates.
The 2015 senatorial election attracted 79 petitions as against the 105 cases filed in 2019.
For the House of Representatives election, 179 petitions were filed in 2015, while 215 were filed in 2019.
The House of Assembly elections drew the highest number of election petitions with 380 of them filed in 2019 and 419 of the filed in 2015.