The Supreme Court in the case of A ction Congress v. I.N.E.C. recently held inter alia that although the I ndependent National Electoral Commission has the power to organize, undertake and supervise all elections in Nigeria, there is nothing in the Electoral Act, 2006 and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 that gives it power to disqualify a candidate from contesting an election. It is onl y the Court of law that can disqualify a candidate.
This review will argue that the Supreme Court may be right in holding that on certain grounds for disqualification of a candidate onl y a pronouncement of a Court of competent jurisdiction will be acceptable. However, it will be shown that this blanket principle may not be applicable to certain provisions in the Electoral Act and the Constitution . In those specific cases , it will be wrong to insist that only a pronouncement of a Court of competent jurisdiction will be a ground for disqualification.
It will also be shown that in the expediency of an election process in Nigeria, to insist o n a pronouncement by the Court may unwittingly truncate the electoral process. The paper suggests a review of the position and states that a middle course is preferably.
In order for candidates to be eligible to contest in elections in Nigeria, they are required to meet statutory requirements under the Constitution and the Electoral Act. Assuming a candidate does not meet certain requirements under the Law, who can disqualify?
In the recent case of A ction Congress v. I ndependent National Electoral Commission (INEC) 1 , the Supreme Court held inter-alia that although the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has the powers to organize, undertake and supervise all elections in Nigeria, there is nothing in the Electoral Act, 20062 and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 that empowers the Commission to disqualify a candidate from contesting an election. It is only the Court of Law that can disqualify a candidate.
This review is intended to show that although the Supreme Court was right in holding that only a Court of competent jurisdiction can disqualify a candidate on certain grounds, it is with due respect, not correct to hold categorically that in ALL cases only a pronouncement of the Court will do. There are certain disqualifying factors or requirements which are self executing. In such cases, it is our contention of the writer that the pronouncement of the Court thereon will be unnecessary. The exigencies of our pace of dispensation of justice will also recommend that the INEC be empowered to disqualify a candidate in some cases without the need for obtaining a court pronouncement.