The President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, has decried the rising number of lawsuits emanating from elections in Nigeria, noting that it is in turn affecting the growth of the country’s economy, News About Nigeria reports.
According to her, the election cases are preventing judges from dealing with other cases, including those bordering on the economy.
Justice Dongban-Mensem said this at a special court session marking the commencement of the 2023/2024 Legal Year in Abuja on Monday.
The Appeal Court President revealed that out of the 28 states where governorship elections took place in the last general elections, only four states (Kwara, Niger, Yobe, and Katsina) did not result in litigation.
She also disclosed that from the 2023 general elections, 1,209 petitions arose, necessitating the setting of 98 panels of judges to adjudicate on them.
Justice Dongban-Mensem who also gave the breakdown of the petitions, noted that five were filed at the Presidential Election Petition Court; 147 at the senatorial election tribunals; 417 at the House of Representatives elections tribunal; 557 at the Houses of Assembly election tribunals and 83 focusing on the governorship elections.
In her words: “The cost and negative effect of electoral litigation is becoming worrisome. It is becoming economically alarming that the entire Nigerian judicial system is inundated with electoral litigation and adjudication almost all year round.
“It is a matter of concern that a large number of judges of the trial court have been engaged for six months in the exclusive management of electoral cases. The implication is that commercial matters are tied down in our courts. Industrial disputes and land matters which when determined in good time could create jobs and release cash flow into the economy are tied down in court registries.”
The Appeal Court President also disclosed that lawsuits have started arising from the primary elections ahead of the off-cycle governorship elections in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi states, slated for November 11, 2023.
She, therefore, charged politicians to embrace the spirit of sportsmanship, adding that all elections should not always end up in the court.
“We have already received several pre-election appeals related to the conduct of political party primaries in these states and we are working assiduously to ensure that they are promptly disposed of. No days off for judicial officers.
“Democracy is beautiful, it is the way to go. However, politicians should, in the interest of our national economic development, imbibe the spirit of good sportsmanship. They should pay more attention to internal democracy and exercise the spirit of loyalty to a cause, which necessarily entails letting go in the interest of discipline and internal harmony. All elections need not end up in court,” she said.