Renowned legal practitioner, Afe Babalola, has voiced his opinion that sitting judges should not preside over election tribunals. He believes that this practice raises concerns regarding the impartiality and independence of the judiciary.
According to Babalola, election tribunals are crucial in ensuring the integrity and fairness of the electoral process. To maintain public confidence, he suggests that retired judges or jurists who are not currently serving on the bench should be appointed to oversee such tribunals.
Babalola emphasizes the importance of a transparent and credible electoral system, where disputes are resolved in a manner that instills trust and confidence in the judiciary. He argues that having sitting judges preside over election tribunals may compromise this objective and could create a perception of bias or undue influence.
Ultimately, Babalola advocates for reforms that will enhance the credibility of election tribunals and strengthen the democratic process as a whole.
The legal luminary, who spoke at an event in Ado-Ekiti to mark his 60th anniversary at the Bar, said the judiciary needs a total overhaul.
“Our judiciary today needs a total overhaul and you cannot do it without a new constitution,” he said. “I have about three cases myself in respect of matters arising from the university.”
“For the past four years, these cases have been on. We have some judges here, the headquarters won’t be able to sit for many months because they are handling what they call election petitions.
“Election petitions should not be handled by sitting judges, they should be decided only by the committee set up consisting of senior advocates and retired judges in that case regular courts would not close down,” Babalola stated.
With the conduct of the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections as well as the March 18 governorship and state assemblies polls, many aggrieved contestants filed petitions at tribunals sitting in Abuja and in states, challenging the declarations by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Dignitaries at the occasion include former President Olusegun Obasanjo; the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Matthew Kukah; the Ooni of Ife, Adeyeye Ogunwusi; former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Emeka Anyaoku; human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), amongst others.