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The Judiciary and Electoral Outcome in Nigeria; Case Study The 2019 General Election


The study investigated the role of the judiciary in electoral outcomes in Nigeria, focusing on the 2019 general election. A quantitative survey research design was adopted, utilizing a structured questionnaire to collect data from a sample of 120 respondents. The questionnaire incorporated Likert scale items to measure respondents’ perceptions of the judiciary’s role, impartiality, and impact on electoral processes. SPSS27 software was employed to analyze the collected data, presenting findings in various tables to facilitate interpretation. The findings revealed that a majority of respondents agreed that the judiciary played a crucial role in ensuring the fairness and integrity of the 2019 general election, although there were concerns about judicial impartiality and transparency. Court rulings were perceived to have a significant impact on electoral outcomes, influencing public trust in the electoral process. Based on these findings, the study concluded that the judiciary’s independence and impartiality are essential for upholding democratic principles and ensuring electoral transparency in Nigeria. In light of these conclusions, several recommendations are proposed to strengthen the judiciary’s role in electoral processes. These include measures to enhance judicial independence, transparency, and impartiality, expedite legal processes related to electoral disputes, promote electoral education, and strengthen collaboration between electoral management bodies, civil society organizations, and the judiciary. These recommendations aim to address existing challenges and promote greater confidence in the electoral process, ultimately contributing to the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria.




Background of the Study

The Nigerian judiciary plays a pivotal role in upholding the democratic process, especially concerning the integrity and fairness of electoral outcomes. The judiciary serves as a crucial check and balance mechanism, ensuring that electoral processes adhere to legal standards and constitutional principles. As highlighted by Adegbite, Oduniyi, et al. (2019), the doctrine of separation of powers underscores the importance of an independent judiciary in safeguarding democratic institutions. In the context of Nigeria’s 2019 general elections, the judiciary’s interventions were paramount in addressing legal disputes and allegations of electoral irregularities, thereby reinforcing the rule of law and promoting democratic principles.

The 2019 general elections in Nigeria were characterized by significant controversies and legal challenges, underscoring the vital role of the judiciary in resolving electoral disputes. Akindele and Nassar (2022) emphasize the essential function of the judiciary in providing a legal framework for electoral processes and ensuring accountability and transparency. Throughout the electoral period, the judiciary was tasked with adjudicating disputes related to voter eligibility, candidate qualifications, and allegations of electoral fraud. These legal challenges underscored the judiciary’s significance as a final arbiter in determining the legitimacy of electoral outcomes and upholding the rule of law.

The decisions made by the judiciary during the 2019 general elections had far-reaching implications for electoral processes and outcomes in Nigeria. As noted by Gathii and Akinkugbe (2022), the judicialization of election disputes underscored the judiciary’s role as a key actor in shaping the electoral landscape. Court rulings on contentious issues such as candidate disqualification, vote tallying, and result announcements influenced the course of the electoral process and public perception of the fairness and credibility of the elections. Therefore, the judiciary’s decisions were instrumental in determining the legitimacy of the electoral outcomes and maintaining public trust in the democratic process.

The dynamics between the judiciary and electoral outcomes in Nigeria are essential for assessing the country’s democratic governance and the rule of law. Kerr and Wahman (2019) argue that the judiciary’s involvement in electoral disputes can impact public trust in both the judiciary and the electoral process itself. How the judiciary handles electoral disputes, including the timeliness and fairness of its decisions, can either bolster or undermine confidence in democratic institutions. Therefore, understanding the interactions between the judiciary and electoral outcomes is crucial for evaluating the overall health of Nigeria’s democracy and identifying areas for improvement.

In essence, the Nigerian judiciary plays a critical role in ensuring the integrity and fairness of electoral outcomes. The judiciary’s decisions during the 2019 general elections had significant implications for the country’s democratic governance and the rule of law. By adjudicating electoral disputes and upholding legal standards, the judiciary reinforces the principles of democracy and maintains public trust in the electoral process. Moving forward, it is essential to continue studying the dynamics between the judiciary and electoral outcomes in Nigeria to strengthen democratic institutions and promote good governance.

 Statement of Problem

The Nigerian judiciary’s role in ensuring the integrity and fairness of electoral outcomes is crucial for maintaining democratic governance and the rule of law. However, despite its significance, there are several gaps in understanding the dynamics between the judiciary and electoral outcomes, particularly in the context of the 2019 general elections in Nigeria.

Firstly, there is a lack of comprehensive analysis regarding the factors influencing the judiciary’s decisions in resolving electoral disputes. While some studies acknowledge the importance of legal principles and constitutional provisions (Adegbite, Oduniyi, et al., 2019), there is limited insight into the broader political, social, and institutional factors shaping judicial outcomes. Understanding these factors is essential for elucidating the judiciary’s independence, impartiality, and effectiveness in adjudicating electoral disputes.

Secondly, there is a need to examine the impact of the judiciary’s interventions on electoral processes and outcomes. While court rulings during the 2019 general elections undoubtedly influenced the course of the electoral process (Gathii & Akinkugbe, 2022), the specific effects on voter behaviour, political dynamics, and the overall legitimacy of the elections remain underexplored. By assessing the consequences of judicial interventions, scholars and policymakers can better understand the judiciary’s role in shaping electoral outcomes and public perception.

Additionally, there is limited research on the challenges and limitations faced by the judiciary in adjudicating electoral disputes. Despite its constitutional mandate, the judiciary may encounter obstacles such as resource constraints, political pressure, and judicial capacity issues (Kerr & Wahman, 2019). Exploring these challenges is essential for identifying areas for reform and strengthening the judiciary’s capacity to effectively resolve electoral disputes.

Furthermore, there is a paucity of studies examining the long-term implications of the judiciary’s role in electoral processes for democratic governance in Nigeria. While immediate concerns may focus on the fairness and credibility of individual elections, it is essential to consider the broader impact on democratic institutions, political stability, and public trust in the judiciary (Kerr, 2021). By assessing the enduring effects of judicial interventions, researchers can provide valuable insights into the sustainability of Nigeria’s democratic governance framework.

Hence, addressing these gaps in understanding the relationship between the judiciary and electoral outcomes in Nigeria is crucial for enhancing democratic governance, promoting the rule of law, and strengthening electoral integrity. Future research should strive to provide comprehensive analyses of the factors influencing judicial decisions, the impact of judicial interventions on electoral processes, the challenges faced by the judiciary, and the long-term implications for democratic governance.

Research Questions

  1. What role did the judiciary play in shaping the outcomes of the 2019 general election in Nigeria?
  2. To what extent did legal challenges and court rulings influence electoral processes and results?
  3. How did public perception of the judiciary’s independence and fairness affect the legitimacy of electoral outcomes in Nigeria?

  Objectives of the Study

The following specific objectives were investigated:

  1. To analyze the involvement of the judiciary in resolving disputes related to the 2019 general election in Nigeria.
  2. To assess the impact of legal challenges and court rulings on electoral processes and outcomes.
  3. To examine the perception of the judiciary’s impartiality and independence and its implications for the legitimacy of electoral results.

 Scope and Limitations

This study focuses specifically on the judiciary’s role in the 2019 general election in Nigeria and its influence on electoral outcomes. It will analyze key legal disputes, court rulings, and their effects on the electoral process and public perception. However, due to the vastness of the topic and the limitations of resources, the study may not cover every aspect of electoral disputes or capture all perspectives on the judiciary’s role.

Significance of the Study

Understanding the intricate relationship between the judiciary and electoral outcomes holds paramount importance in fortifying democracy and upholding the rule of law within the Nigerian context. Delving into the specifics of the 2019 general election provides a nuanced understanding of the challenges faced and the opportunities available for bolstering the electoral process and augmenting the efficacy of the judiciary. The insights gleaned from such an analysis offer invaluable guidance to policymakers, electoral authorities, civil society organizations, and various stakeholders in their collective endeavour to tackle electoral irregularities and foster transparency, accountability, and public trust in the electoral process.

The 2019 general election in Nigeria serves as a pivotal case study, encapsulating a myriad of complexities and intricacies inherent within the electoral landscape of the nation. By dissecting the events, controversies, and legal battles that unfolded during this electoral period, researchers can gain a comprehensive understanding of the multifaceted dynamics at play. This granular examination sheds light on the challenges impeding the conduct of free, fair, and credible elections in Nigeria, ranging from logistical hurdles to systemic issues such as voter suppression and electoral fraud.

Moreover, scrutinizing the role of the judiciary during the 2019 general election unveils both the strengths and weaknesses of the legal apparatus tasked with adjudicating electoral disputes. Through a thorough analysis of court rulings, legal precedents, and judicial processes, researchers can discern the judiciary’s effectiveness in safeguarding electoral integrity and upholding democratic principles. This critical evaluation enables stakeholders to identify areas of improvement within the judicial system, including the enhancement of judicial independence, the expeditious resolution of electoral disputes, and the enforcement of electoral laws and regulations.

Furthermore, exploring the nexus between the judiciary and electoral outcomes offers valuable insights into the broader challenges facing Nigeria’s democratic governance framework. By examining the impact of legal interventions on electoral processes and outcomes, researchers can elucidate the efficacy of existing electoral laws, institutional mechanisms, and governance structures. This deeper understanding facilitates evidence-based policymaking and institutional reforms aimed at fortifying democratic institutions, mitigating electoral irregularities, and fostering political stability and social cohesion.

Additionally, the findings derived from the study of the judiciary’s role in the 2019 general election serve as a catalyst for collaborative action among diverse stakeholders. Armed with empirical evidence and comprehensive analyses, policymakers, electoral authorities, civil society organizations, and other actors are better equipped to devise targeted interventions and implement effective reforms. These collective efforts may encompass the strengthening of electoral oversight mechanisms, the enhancement of voter education and civic engagement initiatives, and the promotion of transparency and accountability in electoral processes.

Definition of Terms

Judiciary: The branch of government responsible for interpreting and applying the law, including resolving disputes and administering justice.

Electoral Outcome: The results of an election, including the allocation of seats or offices to candidates or parties based on votes cast.

General Election: A national election in which voters choose representatives for various political offices, such as the president, members of parliament, or local government officials.

Legal Challenges: Disputes or controversies arising from alleged violations of electoral laws or irregularities during the electoral process.

Court Rulings: Decisions made by a court of law or judiciary regarding the resolution of legal disputes, including electoral disputes.

Impartiality: The quality of being fair, unbiased, and not favouring any particular individual, group, or party.

Independence: The autonomy of the judiciary from external influence or interference, particularly from the executive or legislative branches of government.

Legitimacy: The perceived validity or justification of authority, including the acceptance of electoral outcomes as legitimate by the public and key stakeholders.



  • Haralambos, M., & Holborn, M. (2021). Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. London: Collins.
  • Hirschl, R. (2022). The Judicialization of Mega-Politics and the Rise of Political Courts.
  • Huntington, S.P. (2017). The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century. Norman Publishing.
  • Izzi, M.O. (2019). The Role of Judiciary in Nigeria Electoral System. Reproductive Right and Population Control in Nigeria: Law and Sustainable Perspective.
  • Kalu, C. (2018). Separation of Powers in Nigeria: An Anatomy of Power Convergencies and Divergencies. African Journals, 9(1).


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