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Election Petitions Overwhelming and Damaging Economy, Says A’Court President

President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, Expresses Concern Over High Volume of Election-Related Lawsuits

Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, the President of the Court of Appeal, has expressed her deep concern over the overwhelming number of lawsuits stemming from elections in Nigeria. She noted that this surge in election-related cases is hindering judges from addressing other crucial matters, including those of economic significance.

During a special court session marking the commencement of the 2023/2024 Legal Year in Abuja, Justice Dongban-Mensem revealed that the 2023 general elections alone generated a staggering 1,209 petitions. To handle this immense caseload, 98 panels of judges had to be assembled to adjudicate these disputes.

Breaking down the petitions, she outlined that five were filed at the Presidential Election Petition Court, 147 at the senatorial election tribunals, 417 at the House of Representatives elections tribunals, 557 at the Houses of Assembly election tribunals, and 83 focused on the governorship elections.

The President of the Court of Appeal expressed her growing concern about the financial and economic implications of this relentless surge in electoral litigation. She highlighted that the Nigerian judicial system is being inundated with election-related cases almost year-round. The consequence of this is that the judicial system, which could otherwise handle commercial, industrial, and land-related disputes promptly, is swamped with electoral cases, thereby delaying the resolution of other vital matters.

Justice Dongban-Mensem noted that only four out of the 28 states where governorship elections took place in the last general elections escaped litigation. She added that lawsuits were already emerging from the primary elections in preparation for off-cycle governorship elections in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi states, which are scheduled for November 11, 2023.

In her closing remarks, she urged politicians to embrace the spirit of sportsmanship and emphasized that not all elections should culminate in court battles. She called on politicians to prioritize internal democracy, loyalty to a cause, and discipline for the greater good of the nation’s economic development.

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), also weighed in on the matter, condemning attacks on justices of the Presidential Election Petition tribunal in Abuja. He stressed that litigants and lawyers must refrain from subjecting the judiciary to undue media vilification and partisan criticism, emphasizing that extreme and unwarranted criticism, including threats against judges, is unacceptable and detrimental to the judicial process.

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