No promises made by political parties in their manifestoes are legally enforceable under Nigerian Laws. The reason is that failure of a party’s candidates to meet up to their promises after being elected into office, has not been criminalized by Nigerian law nor by common law.
Also, the electorates do not have the right to sue the party or its candidate over such issues. This non-justiciability has been linked to the changing situations and nature of a democratic government.
In a democratic society like Nigeria, voters during elections are loaded with power to put politicians in an elective office or scrub them off from office. It is by virtue of this power that politicians through their Manifestoes, present to voters their mission and vision with unrealistic promises, geared towards addressing plights of citizenry when elected into office.
The electorates are often jolted back to reality years into the politicians’ reigns as those comparing promises are mere lip services.
Since the return of democracy in 1999, elections have been held for various elective offices, that politically bring about a bond between politicians and electorates. The Electorates usually get convinced and vote with much expectations based on these promises from politicians.
This article seeks to reveal the position of law in Nigeria as to whether or not campaign promises are legally enforceable at the instance of the electorates.
- Conceptual Clarification
According to UK parliament, a manifesto is a publication issued by a political party before a General Election. It contains the set of policies that the party stands for and would wish to implement if elected to govern.
Leadership Newspaper in its report titled “2023: Manifestos, Parties And Presidential Candidates” explained ‘manifesto’ as a promise, also an implied contract between the people and political party or candidate presented to the voters on which basis their votes are sought.
In the foregoing, it is explicable that a manifesto is a published declaration of the intentions, motives, or purpose of a political party all for the purposes of wellbeing and providing lasting solutions to electorates’ problems.
Manifesto is a prepared document by a political party containing its ideologies, strategies and policies for addressing the plight of citizenry. It is a document of a party that binds the candidate of that party.
Black’s Law Dictionary 5th edition has defined enforcement as:
“Making sure a rule or standard or court order or policy is properly followed”
- Contemplations of Chapter II of the 1999 Constitution and Promises in Political Parties Manifestos.
Campaign promises are social promises that are binding in honour, not in statute.
On the relationship between campaign promises and fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy enshrined in Chapter II of the constitution, almost all the manifestos are aimed at providing basic services in respect to almost all the issues of Chapter II of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
For instance, with presidential election drawing closer, Atiku Abubakar of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), like other presidential candidates, released his manifesto called “My Covenants With Nigerians“.
Atiku, further holisticly asssessrof the issues confronting the country, promised to amongst other things, restore Nigeria’s unity through equity and providing social justice as well as co-operation and consensus amongst the heterogenous peoples.
Atiku also went further to make promises on security, education, business and addressing other menace faced by citizens.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu of All Progressive Congress (APC) also made similar promises in about 70 items in his manifesto titled “Renewed Hope 2023“.
Labour Party Candidate Peter Obi, in his document “It’s Possible; Our Pact With Nigerians“, which encapsulates his programme for the country, said he would establish a strong and effective democratic government that guarantees the safety and security of life and property.
Notwithstanding the fact that campaign promises as encapsulated in Chapter II of the Constitution, the Chapter itself has been made unenforceable by the Constitution, and despite the non-orthodox opinions from lawyers and judges that with the gradual evolution of relevant laws and progressive judicial decisions on socio-economic rights in Nigeria, it is the opinion of the writer that some parts of the Chapter should be made enforceable.
Nevertheless, the position remains as it is, that courts are prohibited from entertaining any matter relating to any issue listed under the Chapter.
Section 6 (6)(c) of the Constitution provides as follows:
(6) “The judicial powers vested inaccordance with the foregoing provisions of this section”
(c) shall not except as otherwise provided by this Constitution, extend to any issue or question as to whether any act of omission by any authority or person or as to whether any law or any judicial decision is in conformity with the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy set out in Chapter II of this Constitution.
Section 20 of the Constitution admonishes the states to provide free and healthy environment for wellbeing of citizens, this:
“The State shall protect and improve the environment and safeguard the water, air and land, forest and wild life of Nigeria.”
The Courts have frowned and warned against violating promises. For example, in the case of Attorney-General of Ondo State v Attorney-General of the Federation, the Supreme Court held that:
“notwithstanding the non-justiciable nature of the provisions of Chapter two, it would amount to a deficiency of obligation on the part of the branches of governments if they acted in contempt of the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy”
Promises of political parties in their manifestos are no more than the provision of Chapter II, this is because manifestos are aims, objectives and policies of a party which sets out the clear intention which a party or its candidate seems to achieve when its comes to power.
Section 224 of the 1999 Constitution provides:
- “The programme as well as the aims and objects of a political party shall conform with the provisions of Chapter II of this Constitution”
The provisions of Chapter II are non-justiciable. Courts jurisdiction are curtailed and so also campaign promises of a party are not enforceable.
In Archbishop Anthony Olubunmi Okogie v. Attorney-General of Lagos State, the court held that
“the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy are non-justiciable and that Nigerian courts lack jurisdiction to adjudicate on them”
The reason for the non-justiciability of this Chapter is because Constitution curtailed courts’ jurisdiction over them; once the Constitution makes provision for justiciability of Chapter II, then manifestos of political parties will also be made justiciable.
Niki Tobi JSC (as he then was) while interpreting the provision of section 6(6)(c) in the case of Federal Republic of Nigeria v Aneche & Ors, held:
In my view section 6 (6)(c) of the Constitution is neither total nor sacrosanct as the section provides a leeway using the words “except as otherwise provided by this Constitution”. This means that if the Constitution otherwise provides in another section, which makes a section or sections of the chapter II justiciable, it will be so interpreted by the courts.
By the way of conclusion, it is evident that political parties manifestos are not legally enforceable and the only remedy available for aggrieved electorates is to vote out any persona non grata politician during election.
About the Author
Muhammad Abubakar is a Second Year student of Faculty of Law, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He is an ardent reader and researcher. He can be reached via: [email protected].