Nigeria: Supreme Court Justice Wants Presidents, Govs' Immunity Removed for Electoral Infractions

22 April 2021

A Judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Ejembi Eko yesterday called for the suspension of the immunity of a president and governor who goes against Electoral Act.

But in the provisions of the constitution, a serving president or governor cannot be prosecuted for any alleged infractions of the country's law while still in office.

However, speaking at a workshop for the review of Elections Petition Tribunal in the 2019 General Election held in Abuja, Justice Ekwo said such suspension would pave the way for prosecution and subsequent punishment if found guilty of breaching electoral laws.

Speaking on the theme: 'Reform of Election Litigation Process: The Constitution, Electoral Act and the Practice Direction', the apex court justice was of the opinion that the removal of the immunity clause would not only send the right message across to Nigerians but would make public officers have a rethink before violating electoral laws.

"The immunity clause in the constitution, in apparent contradiction of other constitutional provisions, should not be a facade to insulate such public officer from prosecution or sanction for acts or conduct executed to corrupt and undermine his oath of office, the constitution and national ethos. There should be a suspension of immunity in such circumstances," he noted.

Justifying why immunity should be waved for public officers, Eko said when the chief executive criminally misappropriates state funds to finance elections corruptly, and that conduct, like treason, also undermines and erodes the constitution.

The Judge noted that reforming the electoral process, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in uploading results from the polling units to the final collation, should also simultaneously transmit the results to the political parties and other candidates as well as media houses. He also advocated more power for INEC.

"INEC, in view of Sections 95 and 96 of the Electoral Act dealing with prohibition of certain conduct, including the use of force or violence during political campaigns and elections, should be given more enforcement powers, subject to judicial review, to deal summarily with the situation," he stated.

According to him, it can include power to suspend or disqualify the offending political party from further elections in the constituency.

The Justice also said more power should be given to court or election tribunal to penalise the party and its candidate for such misconduct.

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