(as prepared for delivery)
All protocols observed.
I am honored to open this special program on the courts’ responsibility to preserving the integrity of the electoral process. It is quite a timely and relevant topic in Nigeria. The people of Nigeria and Nigeria’s friends around the world look forward to the 2015 elections and have deeply invested in ensuring that the presidential and parliamentary elections are not only free, fair, and credible, but also free from violence. In all democracies, post-election litigation in the courts plays a critical role in checking post-election violence.
I hope everyone will find this afternoon’s interaction helpful in preparing for the challenges of upholding sound judicial principles in electoral cases. I understand we have a mix of legal and academic minds at this gathering—from old hands to students at the Nigerian Law School in Bwari. No matter where you are in your career, I applaud you for taking the initiative to be part of this program to refine your techniques and employ new approaches during possible post-election litigation.
I would like to personally thank Judge James A. Wynn, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for accepting our invitation. Judge Wynn has extensive legal experience, and we are delighted that he is graciously spending his time to share his expertise with us today. I would also like to recognize our three distinguished Federal Capital Territory high court judges—Justice Ishaq Bello, Justice Peter Affen, and Justice Adebukunola (Ah-day-bu-ku-NO-la) Banjoko (Ban-JO-ko)—who are ready to share a cross-cultural perspective on the subject.
This session is one of the many ways in which the United States is demonstrating a strong commitment to supporting Nigeria’s goal of free, fair, credible, and peaceful elections on March 28 and April 11. We have been working very closely with the Independent National Electoral Commission to ensure that the process is transparent, well-monitored, and secure. The Ekiti and Osun elections last year were solid examples of what happens when everyone, both the government and citizens, commits to ensuring that they respect the electoral process and one another.
As the representative of a fellow democracy that is a great friend and partner of Nigeria, I eagerly await your massive democratic exercise in the next few weeks. I have no doubt that it will be boisterous, loud, and hotly contested. Let us also make sure that the elections remain free of violence, offering a conducive environment for Nigeria’s court system to settle disputes.
Thank you very much. I look forward to the rest of the program.