Appeal Court President displeased with lawyers’ conduct at election tribunals

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The Acting President, Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem has expressed displeasure with the conduct of some lawyers before election petition tribunals.

Justice Dongban-Mensem suggested the inclusion of lawyers in the preparation of rules guiding proceedings at election tribunals. “In our rules, we say that briefs should not be more than certain number of pages yet, they (lawyers) will reduce the font size of such briefs, compressing 60 pages to 30 pages, thereby putting excess pressure on our eyes.

“In planning the next edition of the manual, I think the Senior Advocates of Nigeria and other lawyers should be involved, because their roles are crucial in such decision making process.”

Justice Dongban-Mensem spoke while playing host to a team from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES),comprising of the Country Director, Hermann Thiel; Deputy Country Director, Seray Jah, and the Project Manager, Simon Fanto.

According to the court’s spokeswoman, Sa’adatu Musa, the IFES team visited Justice Dongban-Mensem to brief her on plans to convene a debriefing conference of the justices and judges, who participated in the 2019 election petition tribunal processes, and to review the Manual for Election Petition Tribunal.

The court’s Acting President added: “I would like IFES to consider having more regular workshops for justices and not just when elections are around the corner.

“This will also allow for proper feedback on how well people appreciate this effort and how your organisation intends to implement the issues raised to ensure that the process is better executed for positive result.”

She noted that if the manuals were made available on time for the judges to study and follow-up workshops organised, specifically to address issues to be raised by the 250 judges, who participated in the election petition tribunals, it will ease the trouble experienced due to insufficient time for the study and assimilation of the guidelines contained in the manual.

Justice Dongban-Mensem said the practice whereby a lot of documents are dumped on tribunal judges, who are expected to go through such materials without proper guidance, was not good for smooth justice delivery.

She urged IFES to take a closer look the issue and find ways to address it.

Thiel said their visit was for two reasons; first to get to know the new Acting President of the Court of Appeal and to intimate her about IFES’ activities.

He said the team also visited to strategise on how overcome the challenges of bringing together the 250 judges, drawn from the 36 states, who participated in EPT, for a debriefing conference in this COVID-19 pandemic era.

The Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal, Ibrahim Aliyu recalled that similar conferences and interactive sessions. were held in 2015 by IFES for the tribunal judges, where they shared their experiences on the field.

Aliyu, who dwelt on the benefits of such meetings, said such interactions and the updating of the manual give first-hand information to the tribunal judges to aid their performance.

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