The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that cases by litigation-happy individuals and parties are eating into vital time for the preparations of and procurement of sensitive materials for the 2023 general elections.
The nation’s electoral body also noted that the cases are wasting the precious time of the courts which are already inundated by even the most improbable cases.
INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this at a capacity Building Workshop for Justices and Judges on Election Matters, held at the National Judicial Institute (NJI) in Abuja yesterday.
He said the Commission had been joined in about 600 cases relating to the conduct of recent primaries and nomination of candidates by political parties for the 2023 general election.
“Only two weeks ago, one political party served about 70 Court processes on the Commission in one day, seeking to compel us to accept the nomination or substitution of its candidates long after the deadline provided in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 General Election had elapsed.
“Some of the cases will go up to the Supreme Court. The implication is that we are still dealing with issues of nomination of candidates thereby eating into vital time for preparation of and procurement of sensitive materials for the materials. It also means that the Courts will be dealing with the same issues long after the general election.”
Yakubu, however, reassured the judiciary that the Commission will continue to abide by court orders.
According to him, “I wish to reassure the judiciary that the Commission will continue to abide by court orders. However, strict adherence to stare decisis is critical for us as an Election Management Body.
“A situation where a trial court sought to vary the judgement of the Supreme Court by ordering the Commission to issue a Certificate of Return in favour of a candidate whose emergence during the party’s primary election had been nullified by the apex court (and affirmed by the same court following an application for clarification) put the Commission in a difficult situation.
“The matter is currently being litigated again, possibly all the way back to the Supreme Court, thereby wasting the precious time of the courts which are already inundated by even the most improbable cases by litigation-happy individuals and parties.”
As a consequence of a similar workshop organised ahead of the 2019 general election, he said the Commission noticed a sharp reduction in the number of cases arising from that election and consequently a reduced number of elections nullified by the Election Petition Tribunals.
For instance, the INEC helmsman said 30 elections were upturned by the Tribunals in 2019 as against over 100 in a previous election.
Even so, he said in 23 out of 30 constituencies (i.e 76 per cent), the elections were only set aside in some polling units and not the wholesale nullification of elections in entire constituencies.
“We have studied the judgements of the Tribunals arising from both the 2019 General Election, the off-cycle Governorship elections, and the bye-elections conducted so far.
“We identified areas where we need to do more to reduce litigation. As a result, we are witnessing increasingly fewer court cases challenging the conduct of elections by the Commission.”
He, however, lamented that cases arising from the conduct of primaries for the nomination of candidates by political parties are on the increase.