Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Nigeria: Constitutionality of Provisions of Electoral Act 2010 Challenged in Court

(Apr. 5, 2011) It was reported on April 3, 2011, that Nigeria's Labour Party (LP) has instituted a lawsuit before the Abuja Federal High Court in which it is challenging the constitutionality of sections of the Electoral Act 2010 (specifically, §§140(2) and 141) that limit the power of courts or election tribunals in adjudicating election disputes. (Joe Nwankwo, LP Sues INEC, AGF over Amended Electoral Act, DAILY INDEPENDENT (Apr. 3, 2011).) The LP has named the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Attorney General of the Federation, and the Minister of Justice as defendants in its suit and it is seeking an injunction against the INEC to force it to recognize candidates in disputed elections who have been declared the winners by courts or election tribunals. (Id.)

The LP's suit is based on the concept of separation of powers. It claims that the above- mentioned provisions of the Electoral Act constitute interference by the legislative branch in the powers of the judiciary and are therefore unconstitutional. (Id.)

The Electoral Act states that if a court or an election tribunal nullifies an election on the ground that the person who obtained the highest number of votes did not possess the qualifications to participate in the election, that court or election tribunal may not declare the runner-up victorious. (Electoral Act 2010, §140(2), INEC (last visited Apr. 4, 2011).) It also states that a court or an election tribunal may not declare a candidate the winner of an election if such candidate “has not fully participated in all the stages of the said election.” (Id. §141.) The LP argues that these provisions violate sections 6 (on judicial powers), 134 (on presidential elections with two or more candidates), 179 (on gubernatorial elections with two or more candidates), and 285 (on election tribunals) of the Nigerian Constitution. (Nwankwo, supra; Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, International Centre for Nigerian Law (ICFNL) website (last visited Apr. 3, 2011).)

General national elections in Nigeria are scheduled to take place this month. The elections for National Assembly seats are scheduled for April 9; the presidential election will take place on April 16; and gubernatorial as well as state assembly elections are slated for April 26. (General Elections 2011: Countdown!, INEC (last visited Apr. 4, 2011).)