24th November, 2010
Constitutional lawyer, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN) has advised Nigerian courts to stop the deliberate misinterpretation of the Electoral Laws to suit the party in power hearing in election petitions.
Sagay gave the advice while delivering a lecture titled The Crisis of Election Petitions and Decisions which was organised by the Obafemi Awolowo Institute of Government and Public Policy in Lagos State.
He said that the 2007 election was the worst in the history of the country, adding that it produced a whopping 1,475 petitions.
Sagay said:“ The requirement by some judges that proof of election fraud, rigging, falsification of results, etc should be beyond reasonable doubt, is a bogey set up to stultify and frustrate truth and justice.â€
The senior advocate maintained that once there was evidence of substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act, the election must be voided.
He added: “The petitioner does not have to prove that the substantial non-compliance also substantially affected the result.
“Once there is any malpractice, fraud, manipulation which affects the outcome, the election must be nullified, regardless of whether the beneficiary of fraud had a hand in the malpractice.â€
He said the burden of proof for establishing that there was an election and that it was free and fair should be on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) rather than on the petitioner.
He said the recent sacking of Delta governor by the Appeal Court shows that the courts are finally welcoming the dawn of integrity and the sanctity of the mandate in our election culture.