BUCHANAN, Grand Bassa – The National Elections Commission has provided training in dispute resolution for its 19 elections magistrates ahead of the special senatorial election, expected to take place in October next year.
The training was funded by UNDP and took place in Buchanan. It lasted for five days.
NEC’s chief dispute hearing officer, Muana Ville, said because the commission by law hears certain category of elections disputes by election magistrates in their respective counties of assignment, it was therefore necessary to provide them with a deep understanding of disputes to adjudicate.
“As you may be aware, elections magistrates are not lawyers – so, they were basically trained in courtroom management to help them perform the adjudicative function of their duty,” Ville told reporters.
He said during hearings of dispute cases, elections magistrates may encounter courtroom lawyers, which necessitated providing magistrates with basic courtroom management training to help them better do their jobs. He added that the training would enable the elections, magistrates, to clearly understand the procedures involved in hearing cases that fall within their jurisdiction.
The magistrates are expected to hear cases such as people being left off the voter roll, objections to persons being on the voter roll, and elections day complaint. The magistrates, however, are not empowered to hear post-election complaints.
Ville said this is not the first time for magistrates to be trained in dispute resolution; a similar training was also held in Gbarnga, Bong prior to the 2017 presidential and representatives elections.
He said prior to the Gbarnga training, the magistrates struggled to understand their duties, “but I can assure you that from Gbarnga to this date, the magistrates are well informed about the courtroom management.”
With the recent training, Ville believes that magistrates will be able to amicably handle disputes in next year’s election.
Feature photo courtesy of Onesimus Garway