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Justice discourages offenders from coming to court – Mike Igini

Former Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mr Mike Igini, has expressed concern over the audacity of Nigerian politicians who encourage their aggrieved opponents to exercise their litigable rights. Igini lamented the fact that people are no longer afraid to stand before judges even when they are clearly in the wrong. He noted that politicians in some countries are wary of encouraging their opponents to go to court, because of the fear that the judiciary, as the last line of defence for democracy, would punish lawbreakers.

Igini spoke during a breakfast show on Arise Television, where he compared the Nigerian judiciary to that of the United Kingdom. He stated that in the UK, judges are strict in discouraging people from coming to court by delivering justice according to the law, both substantive and procedural. Whenever there is a violation of a procedure, the offender would be held accountable. Igini noted that the judiciary held the political elite accountable in England, and that is why they are afraid of the judiciary in England.

In Nigeria, however, Igini faulted the timeline for the adjudication of electoral disputes, particularly for governorship election disputes. He noted that the tribunal has six months to determine the issues, while the appeal court and the apex court have 60 days each. During this period, all other matters before the judges are put on hold because they are all at the tribunal.

Igini also expressed shock over the conduct of the political class in Nigeria, particularly in the last election, which he referred to as a “crime scene”. He faulted the post-election attacks on the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) used by INEC in the last election. He noted that BVAS had been used in 105 elections, and apart from the Osun election, the technology was never challenged in court.

Igini stressed the need for the judiciary to stand tall and mighty as the last line of defence in Nigerian democracy. He stated that the judiciary must remain very strict and must discourage people from seeing it as a safe haven for wrongdoing in the country. According to him, societies make progress on the basis of rewards and sanctions. He queried how it can be heard in England that a politician will be boasting that they would do whatever they like and go to the courts in England and get what they want.

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