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Conflicting court rulings can undermine democracy – Egbewole



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Professor Wahab Egbewole

ILORIN- The Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Prof. Wahab Egbewole SAN, says conflicting rulings in Election petition cases pose a severe threat to the credibility of the judiciary.

He said such situations could even undermine the country’s democracy.

Egbewole stated this while delivering a lecture to mark the retirement of Justice Ahmad Olarewaju Belgore and book launch in his honour at the Banquet Hall, on Wednesday in Ilorin.

He also expressed great concern over the persistent controversy and conflicting decisions by courts of coordinate jurisdiction, especially on Election matters.

He advocated the introduction of ICT for the filing and recording of cases as well as delivery of judgments by the various courts in the country in order to check the trend.

In the lecture, titled “Judiciary and Electoral Jurisprudence in Nigeria: Uncertainties of Certainty”, the learned Senior Advocate of Nigeria explained that due to the nature of Nigerians and their attitude towards accepting defeat at any contested Election, the judiciary has been placed in a very critical and precarious position to settle disputes arising from the outcome of elections.

He added that due to the inevitability of disputes arising from pre- and post-Election processes, the judiciary as the third-party arbiter has been playing a very significant role in the settlement of Election disputes.

He however observed that despite this the courts are contributing to the stability of the country’s democracy.

He added that there are still some challenges facing the courts and to the dislike of the citizens, that is the lack of consistency or certainty in their judgments, too much reliance on technicalities as sacrifice for justice or substantial justice.

He said this has been the basis for the criticisms leveled against the courts, alleging lack of fairness in the judgment by political analysts, academics and even legal practitioners.

Egbewole therefore advocated the need to ensure that all divisions of courts or tribunals with coordinate power have access to the sources of information on cases as they are filed and judgments as soon as delivered, to prevent conflicting decisions.

The vice- hancellor also stressed the need for the establishment of a uniform and single mode of filing cases or petitions to avoid or prevent forum-shopping, particularly in pre-Election matters, pointing out that there must be a working model for tracking court decisions with a view to ensuring that conflicting court decisions are exterminated.

Besides, he suggested that the Court of Appeal should set up a very strong unit for research to coordinate decisions of the court with a view to coordinating them to stem conflicts.

Egbewole added that there should be a special spotlight on Election related cases to track decisions for the purpose of sharing such decisions amongst the Justices of the various jurisdictions calling attention to the reasons for the judgment.

The vice chancellor said it was desirable for courts of coordinate jurisdiction in Election petitions (pre- and post-Election disputes) to always strive to achieve a substantial level of unanimity in deciding cases, except where departure is expedient and the court feels so strongly about an issue that compelled them to depart from existing judgment of similar court.

He stated that unanimity and consistency is achievable by such courts,  if there is proper coordination and means of exchanging information timeously about existing decisions of the courts.

He stressed that judges and justices concerned should ensure synergy to meet the demands of the society objectively as well as prevent unwarranted assault on the courts due to conflicting decisions.

According to Egbewole, the increase in disconcerting conflicting judgments from courts (Court of Appeal or Election Tribunals) expose the judiciary to unwarranted public criticism and abuse, to the extent of alleging that the court judgments are now given on a cash-and-carry basis. (NAN)




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