Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), has advised the Nigerian judiciary, in particular the arm responsible for deciding on presidential election petition matters, to decide and make a judgement on such matters within seven days of receiving the petition.
Agbakoba believes that decisions on such a very important national matter don’t have to take too long, taking into consideration the impact that such a delay can have on the nation’s sanity.
The former NBA Chairman aired his view on Arise TV on Wednesday on issues concerning the Nigerian judiciary, especially as it concerns the presidential election petition matter, taking into context the petition challenging the victory of Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the president-elect, by Peter Obi of the Labour Party and Atiku Abubakar of the People Democratic Party.
“There is a context in which I recommended that we should finish the petitions as fast as possible, and I think seven days is a good time to go,” Agbakoba said. “The fact that the constitution prescribes the time limit doesn’t mean that that time limit must actually run, so the context of my call is that the policy is overheated.”
He argued that with what was going on, the political atmosphere in the country has become unnecessary charged. He said that if only the right thing could be done—which is to resolve the election petition matter—then normalcy would be restored.
He said, “The other day, the minister of information was accusing Mr. Peter Obi of treason… and all kinds of things were going around. There are a lot of things wanting to destabilize Nigeria—the DSS is shouting that there are people all over the place doing things. And the simple problem is just to resolve the election petitions.
“The question is not whether it is doable, but whether it can be done.
“So I stand by saying that the judicial philosophy of Nigeria is about 100 years old, and Nigeria is not even for speed.”
Agbakoba argued that countries such as Ghana and Kenya have advanced to the point that resolving election petitions is done within 30 days or less.
“How is it possible that Ghana finishes its own election petition in 30 days? Why can’t we do it here? Why must we have 360 days to do an election that is very simple?” he asked.
He said that the solution to this challenge requires that we apply case management.
“If I were the presiding judge of the tribunal, I would give the petitioner two hours to establish the case as to whether 25 percent of the FCT is relevant in the consideration of who is president or not. I will give Mr. Tinubu time to reply, and I will deliver a ruling at 6 p.m. What’s the difficulty—these are purely matters of law, so it is absolutely feasible,” he explained.
“However, if those three questions don’t succeed, then part A of the petition we will now have to do what you said—take up the issue of electoral malpractice, which I concede will be a lot longer.
“But I have a strong feeling that the three questions I asked can resolve the issue one way or another. It can be resolved in seven days; if Kenya can do it in 14 days, why do we need 360 days to do our own? Are we not more highly educated than Kenya?
“Two, the tribunal itself can raise questions if we set out the petitions that have been taken and resolve the entire thing. I’m concerned that the politics are overheated, and the way to go is to see if we can get the petitions resolved before May 29,” he said.
He questioned the competence of the system that says the issue raised in the tribunal can’t be resolved before handing over.
He made reference to Kenya, whose policy states that “there shall not be an inauguration before handing over.”
“And in the Uwais panel we set out a procedure that can handle such matters,” he said.