During an interactive digital video conference at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja and U.S. Consulate General in Lagos, Nigeria’s judiciary received a major boost on February 10. Judge James A. Wynn, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit provided insightful guidance on how judicial officers can handle post-election litigations and issue verdicts that are untainted, free, and fair. Three Federal Capital Territory High Court judges—Justices Ishaq Bello, Peter Affen, and Adebukunola Banjoko—along with government officials, lawyers, law school students, journalists, and civil society representatives actively joined the discussion.
The U.S. Embassy’s Counselor for Public Affairs, Victoria Sloan, explained that the event was a special program on the courts’ responsibility to preserve the integrity of the electoral process. She said, “In all democracies, post-election litigation in courts play critical role in checking post-election violence.”
Sloan added that the interaction was 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.
Judge Wynn offered several illustrative examples of how courts in the United States have fared over the years in ensuring that justice is done in election-related cases. Sharing his 24-plus years of experience on the bench, he noted that in a normal situation “voters should decide elections and not the courts.” Due to various abnormalities, some cases have to be decided by the court. Making comparisons between U.S. and Nigerian law, Judge Wynn explained that a credible electoral process hinges on judicial independence, transparency, consistency, and timeliness of decisions.
Providing a Nigerian perspective to the topic, Justice Ishaq Bello spoke extensively on the Nigerian judicial system as it relates to ensuring a credible electoral process. He said that the Nigerian judiciary is largely independent, adding that judges involved with election adjudication have worked tirelessly to remain neutral in the electoral processes in the country. Drawing from his 2011 experience as a member of the Election Tribunal in Abuja and Katsina, Judge Bello spoke extensively on the Nigerian legal framework on elections and judicial integrity, and concluded that the newly appointed election tribunal judges are ready to adjudicate cases brought before them after the 2015 elections with judgments that are free, fair, and without fear or favor.