The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho, on Monday, said that the court was not consulted in the enactment of the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 2022 by the National Assembly.
Justice Tsoho made the disclosure while delivering his speech at a special court session to mark the commencement of the court’s 2022/2023 Legal Year in Abuja
Justice Tsoho said additional jurisdiction had been conferred on the FHC by the new Electoral (Amendment) Act, 2022.
According to him, by virtue of Sections 29 (5) and 84(14), of the Act, exclusive jurisdiction is foisted on the Federal High Court in the hearing and determination of pre-election complaints.
“Linked to that jurisdiction is Section 285 (10) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), which provides that such pre-election cases must be concluded within 180 days from the date of filing of the suit.
“This is notwithstanding the judges’ existing ‘high-volume’ dockets that present enormous challenges.
“It is necessary to place on record that the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 2022 was enacted without any consultation with the Court.
“Also, no support whatsoever was provided to address the increased responsibility,” he said.
The CJ said that this had weighed heavily on the operations of the court.
“I must quickly state however that this ‘disruption’, without consultation, did not alter our core fundamental values as a court: of rising to challenges and tackling them head on.
“This underpins our resolve to soar in the face of adversity,” he said.
He said in response to this enormous time-bound responsibility, he constituted a Special Task Force for the swift disposal of pre-election matters.
“The judges drafted into the Task Force were saddled with the mandate of completing all pre-election cases before they lapsed.
“In some instances, judges were drafted from their substantive bases to help in other Judicial Divisions that had a glut of these cases,” he said.
He commended the judges drafted into the special assignment for their resilience and sheer determination to deliver justice within time frame.
He thanked the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, for approving an emergency fund to support the court in the assignment.
“This prompt intervention in no small way helped to stabilise the situation.
“As at today, a total of 1,838 pre-election cases were filed in the court, out of which 1,285 cases have been disposed of, leaving a total of 556 cases pending,” he said.
The President of Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, faulted the decision of the National Assembly to limit the hearing and determination of pre-election cases to FHC.
He said it was disheartening that cases that were earlier done by over 700 judges across the country had been limited to about 77 judges of FHC based on the new Electoral Act.
Mr Maikyau, who said that the suspension of all regular cases for the hearing of pre-election matters is a serious concern to members of the BAR, however, called on the Federal Government to establish special court that would deal with electoral matters.