By Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
Following the order of a Federal High Court, Abuja barring the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from continuing with the collation and declaration of the result of the Bauchi State governorship election held on March 9, 2019, the commission has vowed to take steps to vacate the order.
Consequently, it has filed a motion challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the exparte application filed by the Bauchi State Governor Mohammed Abubakar and the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state to stop INEC from the collation and declaration of result.
The electoral body had earlier fixed March 23, 2019 for the conduct of supplementary elections to conclude the process and make a rerurn in the governorship elections in Adamawa, Sokoto, Bsuchi, Benue, Kano and Plateau States which were declared inconclusive.
Although, the commission later reversed itself on Bauchi State as it approved the resumption and conclusion of the collation of results of Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area, after the committee set up by the commission established that the result in polling units and registration areas are available and in safe custody.
The committee also established that the number of cancelled votes for the four polling units in Ningi Local Government Area, which was recorded as 25,330 in form EC40G (1) was incorrect, as the actual figure is 2,533.
But Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja had on Tuesday stopped INEC from proceeding with the collation, conclusion and announcement of the result of the governorship election in Bauchi State.
The order issued on the strength of an ex parte application filed by the APC and the incumbent Governor of Bauchi State Abubakar shall however last till the determination of the suit brought before the court by the two plaintiffs.
The development came barely 48 hours after Abubakar visited President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, during which the president had supported the governor’s decision to go to court.
In the ex parte motion, the APC and Abubakar had prayed the court for an order of interim injunction restraining INEC from resuming, concluding or announcing the result of the Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area of Bauchi State in respect of the election to the office of governor of Bauchi State.
Justice Ekwo had while ruling on the ex parte motion on Monday ordered INEC to appear before him on Tuesday to show cause why the order sought by the two plaintiffs ought not to be granted.
Instead of complying with the order of the court, INEC represented by Tanimu Inuwa (SAN) at Tuesday’s proceedings approached the court with a motion challenging its jurisdiction.
In his ruling, the judge granted the interim injunction restraining INEC from resuming, concluding and announcing the governorship election result in Bauchi State pending the determination of all issues raised by the plaintiffs in their originating summons.
Reacting to THISDAY enquiry Tuesday, the INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Festus Okoye, confirmed that the electoral body has suspended the collation of governorship results relating to the Tafawa Balewa Local Government, based on the order of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.
He added that the collation and declaration of results for Tafawa Balewa State Constituency Election would continue, while the supplementary election relating to other polling units not affected by the court order would continue on Saturday
Okoye stated: “The commission will continue to obey court orders and will take steps to vacate orders that it believes are not in consonance with the law. The commission has filed a motion challenging the jurisdiction of the court and will wait for the determination of the suit.”
The commission had always maintained that whenever it is served with a court order, it deliberates on it, satisfies itself that the order is from a properly constituted court of law and relates to the issues within its statutory and constitutional mandate.
The commission also said that it does not sit on appeal over orders from the various courts and it does not pick and choose which order to obey and which one not to obey.
INEC had insisted that it was a matter of common knowledge that the country is now within the orbit of post-election challenges and litigation and no new matter could be filed or adjudicated upon by the various courts arising from the conduct of elections.
According to the commission, “The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,1999 (Fourth Alteration, No. 21) Act, 2017 gives the High Courts of the States, the Federal High Court and the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja the exclusive right and jurisdiction to hear and determine matter with pre-election flavour.
“The moment elections are conducted, all matters relating to whether anyone has been validly elected as a member of the National Assembly or whether a Certificate of Return was validly issued to a candidate reverts to the National and State Houses of Assembly, Election Tribunals as established pursuant to section 285 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”