Professor Offornze Amucheazi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and lecturer at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, has blamed court decisions on electoral disputes for the increasing voter apathy in Nigeria.
Amucheazi made the submission in Enugu at the annual lecture/reception of newly inducted members of the Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators (ICMC), Enugu State chapter, chaired by Justice Centus Nweze of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
The law professor spoke on the theme, ‘The Place of Mediation in the Resolution of Electoral Disputes: The 2019 General Elections in Perspective’.
Enumerating the downsides of using litigation in resolving election disputes, Amucheazi said as a result of the very intricate nature of election disputes, coupled with the inefficiency of Nigeria’s judicial system, litigations could drag for months and sometimes years, often at the huge financial cost to candidates and citizens whose taxes are used to defray state expenses in the case.
“More so, long drawn-out court battles risk alienating the electorate, especially when elected seats remain vacant as a result.
“In addition and more concerning, when elections are decided in courts, there is commonly the perception among voters, depending on the judgment, that their votes do not count. This partly informs voter apathy in subsequent elections,” Amucheazi said.
According to him, the perception by voters that their votes do not count in post-election litigation has a ring of truth to it in some electoral disputes decided by the courts in Nigeria.
Amucheazi said the case of Rotimi Amechi vs INEC exemplified this outcome as the appellant (Amechi) was declared winner of the governorship election, even where he did not participate in the actual governorship election.
“Although the Supreme Court justified this electoral jurisprudence on the basis that votes in an election are for political parties and not candidates, there is no doubt that the personality of individual candidates in elections play a huge role in voter support, thus by installing a different candidate post-election, voters can legitimately feel their votes for a particular candidate did not count,” Amucheazi said.