CJN Warns Judges To Rise Above Temptations On 2023 Election Cases

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With about 109 days to the 2023 general elections, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, on Monday, inaugurated members of Election Petition Tribunals, imploring them to shun all forms of temptations and abuse of power while discharging the constitutional duty.



The CJN, who noted that the 307 judicial officers he administered oath to, would be entrusted with the responsibility of deciding the fate of those that would be contesting elections into various political offices in the country, warned that he would not condone any act of recklessness and betrayal of public trust.



The warning came as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) laments rising pre-election cases, and court orders

Speaking however, the CJN states that “For being privileged to be found worthy to serve in these tribunals, Your Lordships are expected to conduct your affairs within the ambit of the law and the oath that has just been administered on you.



“Anything short of that will place you on a collision course with history; and then, God will ask you the questions that you might not be confident enough to answer.



“I can confidently tell you that this is a weighty undertaking you have just signed before the Almighty God. I am saying this because, as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, I will not condone any act of recklessness, abuse of power and public trust.



“This is a rare privilege and Your Lordships must give a good account of yourselves.

“Your Lordships should count yourselves worthy to be so entrusted with this humongous responsibility of deciding the fate of those that would be contesting elections into various political offices in the country in 2023.



“Though Judicial Officers are not known to possess some supernatural powers to perform wonders, I can confidently assure you that the society in which you operate will certainly expect the impossible from you as members of Election Petition Tribunals.



“There is virtually nothing that has not been seen or heard before, but you should be ready to see and hear more, especially as you begin to adjudicate on election matters in 2023”, the CJN stated.

Besides, Justice Ariwoola warned the tribunal members to be ready for troubles, inconveniences, verbal assaults and uncomplimentary remarks from litigants.



He said: “There is no doubt that temptations, tribulations, intimidations and even sheer blackmails may be unleashed on you but as thoroughbred Judicial Officers, you must guide your loins to rise above them and do what will earn you accolades from your creator and also from the court of public opinions.



“All eyes are on Your Lordships and always remember that your conducts will be publicly dissected and thoroughly scrutinized.



“Do what is right in our law books and you will have your names etched in gold. Do what is at variance with your conscience and you will get a scar that will terminally dent your ascension to higher height in life. Be guided by good conscience and enjoy the best that the Nigerian Judiciary can offer you”.



Meanwhile, in his remarks at the swearing in ceremony which was followed by a capacity building workshop for Justices and Judges on election matters, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Mahmood Yakubu, lauded the judiciary over the reduction in the spate of conflicting judgements and the number of elections that have been nullified in recent times.



However, the INEC boss decried that the Commission is currently facing over 600 cases relating to the conduct of recent primaries and nomination of candidates by political parties for the impending general elections.



“Only two weeks ago, one political party served about 70 Court processes on the Commission in one day seeking to compel us to accept the nomination or substitution of its candidates long after the deadline provided in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 General Election had elapsed. Some of the cases will go up to the Supreme Court.



“The implication is that we are still dealing with issues of nomination of candidates thereby eating into vital rime for preparation of and procurement of sensitive materials for the materials. It also means that the Courts will be dealing with the same issues long after the General Election.



“I wish to reassure the judiciary that the Commission will continue to abide by Court orders. However, strict adherence to stare decisis is critical for us as an Election Management Body.



“A situation where a trial Court sought to vary the judgement of the Supreme Court by ordering the Commission to issue a Certificate of Return in favour of a candidate whose emergence during the party’s primary election has been nullified by the apex Court (and affirmed by the same Court following an application for clarification) put the Commission in a difficult situation”.



Prof. Yakubu said the electoral body has studied various judgements on election matters and identified areas that would require improvement so as to reduce litigations.



“The job of the politician is intensely partisan. Our work (the judiciary and INEC) requires absolute neutrality. We will not disappoint Nigerians”, the INEC Chairman added.



On his part, President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, disclosed that whereas 163 judges that were inaugurated on Monday, had served in past tribunals and experienced, 144 of them are new members.



She further disclosed that while 4 members of the tribunal are from the Federal High Court, 3 from the National Industrial Court, 213 drawn from the FCT and State High Courts, 13 of them are from Customary Court, 27 from Sharia Court, while 17 are Chief Magistrates.



“We have made a Judicial Electoral Manual (JEM) containing the Electoral Act 2022, Election Judicial Proceedings Practice Directions 2022, and the Supreme Court Election Appeals Practice Directions to serve as quick reference materials in the electoral adjudicatory process”, Justice Dongban-Mensem added.