Senate moves to place burden of proof on INEC for electoral malpractices

The Senate on Thursday, passed a bill seeking to place the burden of proof of electoral malpractices on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The bill sponsored by Senator Hadi Sirika seeks to ensure that INEC takes responsibility for the burden of proof on electoral offences.

In his lead debate on the bill, Senator Sirika said: “It is not in doubt that the process of proving the regularity or otherwise of the conduct of an election is one process that is highly burdensome and ought not to be placed or vested on the petitioner who did not conduct the election, but only participated in it.

“The onus of proving the regularity of an election ought to be a burden to be discharged by the body or organisation that prepared and arranged for the conduct of that election and thereafter, went ahead to conduct the said election.

“It is settled under the law of evidence that “he who asserts must prove.” However, this bill seeks otherwise, that is, that the burden of proof of the regularity of the conduct of an election must first of all shift to the body that conducted the election.

“The burden of first proof having been discharged by INEC, will then shift to the petitioner who alleged that the election was not properly conducted. I am encouraged to reason that if this bill becomes a law, it will shorten litigation time, make INEC live up to its responsibility and promote transparency.”

The bill, however faced some opposition before scaling the second reading at the Senate.

Senator Heneiken Lokpobiri,  who is one of the senators who opposed the bill, said that passing it would need amendment to the Evidence Act.

He stated that the amendment was “unmeritorious, misconceived and should be thrown to the bin.”

Senator James Manager, who also opposed the amendment, stated that passing it would  it would affect Nigeria’s jurispudence.

He stated that the Evidence Act remained the law and that if a litigant complained about something and dragged INEC to court or the tribunal, it would be the responsibility of the litigant to proof his case.

Senators who supported the bill, including Senator Atai Aidoko and Abdul Ningi, stated that if INEC was convinced that an election was well done, it should go the the court or tribunal with the evidence.

Other senators who supported the bill included Senator Baguda Abubakar and Alkali Saidu Ahmed.

Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the sitting, did not pass a comment, but when he put it to vote, the ayes had it.

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