• Friday, July 19, 2024
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Upturning of many elections by tribunals puts doubt on INEC’s credibility

Upturning of many elections by tribunals puts doubt on INEC’s credibility

As the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly tribunals sitting in all the 36 states of the federation deliver more verdicts emanating from election petitions, observers have raised concerns about the large number of elections of elected officials nullified by the tribunals so far.

For now, about four senators, two governors and 23 members of the House of Representatives have had their victories at the February 25, 2023 polls upturned.

18 members of the House of Representatives were sacked and there would be no supplementary polls.

Several members of state houses of Assembly have had their election upturned by the tribunals across the country in recent weeks.

Some of the reasons the tribunals gave for annulling the elections include invalid nomination, forged names, forged certificates, falsification of results, exclusion of results, non-recording of results, and non-conduct of elections in some polling units.

Read also: Tinubu submitted forged documents to INEC Atiku’s aide

And with more judgements likely to be delivered in the coming days, there could be more upsets that could see lawmakers and governors losing their seats unless they are able to reverse the judgements in the Court of Appeal.

Many elected politicians whose tribunals are yet to deliver judgment are now in panic mode on account of inconsistencies in the judgments across the country.

However, observers say that the situation perhaps, justifies stakeholders’ reports and comments from Nigerians that the 2023 general electionconducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) fell short of expectations.

The large number of the 2023 election upturned by tribunals across Nigeria cast doubt on the Commission’s sincerity and further put the conduct of the polls in disrepute.

In the run up to the poll, the Commission promised Nigerians that the introduction of the electronic transmission of results would give credibility and transparency to the process.

It was expected that citizens would follow polling unit-level results on the INEC Result Viewing IReV portal and real-time on Election Day.

This disclosure elicited joy and optimism among a large spectrum of Nigerians, especially first-time voters who had lost hope in the nation’s electoral process due to years of flawed polls.

However, on Election Days across Nigeria, the reverse was the case. It was only the Senatorial and House of Representatives election results that were uploaded to the INEC IRev.

Results of the presidential poll could not be uploaded to IReV and transmitted electronically across polling units in the country as voters and Nigerians watched in disbelief.

Some INEC ad hoc staff at some polling units said they did not have access to the password of the IReV portal to enable them upload the presidential poll results.

Read also: Off-season elections: Atedo Peterside expresses doubt over INEC transparency

BVAS and IReV failed to meet expectations. Only 45% of Nigeria’s election results were available on IReV three days after the elections closed.

Several people had accused the Commission of deliberately failing to upload results to the IReV in order to manipulate the election results in favour of some candidates.

The commission cited “technical glitches” for the delays.

The explanation of INEC did not go down well with a lot of Nigerians, candidates and stakeholders who expectedly questioned the credibility of subsequent results of the 2023 elections released by the Commission.

Up till now the main opposition candidates, Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) are still challenging the result of the presidential poll at the Supreme Court after losing at the Court of Appeal.

They had filed a petition accusing INEC of technically manipulating election results and failing to conduct the election in accordance with the Electoral Act, among other accusations.

For many, the conduct of the 2023 election polls has once more stirred deep questions on the credibility and integrity of INEC.

A host of domestic and international observers agreed that the polls grossly fell short of minimum global standards.

And they said that it was a shame that after seven election cycles, balloting in Nigeria remains riddled with fraud and tainted by accusations of result falsification, vote buying, voter suppression, calculated disenfranchisement, and violence.

Since the end of the 2023 poll, stakeholders have called for electoral reforms ahead of future elections to guarantee free and fair elections in the country.

Many experts say that it would be practically impossible for INEC with its present composition to conduct a free and fair poll.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, called for the unbundling of the INEC for them to deliver credible elections in the future.

Adegboruwa noted that “the fabric of our democratic engagements seems to have been hijacked and compromised.”

According to him, “Part of the lesson in this process is for us to go back and review the electoral process and the litigations following it. INEC, as it is presently constituted, cannot birth any credible election in Nigeria.

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“In all, maybe, there was too much expectation that the status quo would be upturned, whereas many of the principles of law canvased had long been settled by the apex court.

“While encouraging all parties to continue in toeing the paths already defined by law for the ventilation of grievances, we owe Nigeria an urgent duty to dismantle INEC, urgently.”

A former presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, also called for further reform of the Electoral Act to address the recruitment of INEC.

He said the reform would ensure INEC, established by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to organise elections into various political offices in the country, is truly independent and free of external control before the 2027 presidential election

Olawepo-Hashim advocated the advertisement of the position of INEC chairman and national commissioners rather than their appointment by the President.

He added that the National Judicial Service Commission (NJSC) should be the collation agency.

He warned that Nigeria needed to sort out its electoral flaws now rather than wait for a year before the general elections.

“In 1999, we won the election on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). But who were those that asked for an independent electoral commission? We were the ones. We were not behaving like people who were sure they were going to get power, because we were believers in democracy,” he said.

Speaking after President Bola Tinubu assumed office, Olisa Agbakoba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), had advised the President to sack INEC, Mahmood Yakubu so that he would not impede reforms in the Commission.

Read also: INEC set to conduct mock accreditation exercise in Bayelsa, Imo, Kogi ahead of election

Agbakoba stressed that both winners and losers of the 2023 general election in the country were victims of the failure of INEC.

He added that a deep cleansing of INEC would enhance confidence in Nigeria’s democracy.

According to him, “Many results are disputed and are in Tribunals, both petitioners and respondents suffered at the hands of an incompetent INEC.

“As we await rulings from the courts, massive reforms of the electoral framework ought to begin but this means that the INEC Chairman will have to leave office by resignation or removal, otherwise the reform task will be impeded.

“I add very quickly that the suggested reforms have nothing to do with the merits of election results at all.”