Don’t Drag Us into Tribunals, Courts’ Decisions, INEC Warns Politicians

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Chuks Okocha in Abuja

In an apparent reference to the Supreme Court judgement that ousted Emeka Ihedioha as governor of Imo State, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday said it would not be drawn into the propriety or otherwise of outcome of tribunals or courts that adjudicated on election matters.

Rather, the commission said it would work with other relevant stakeholders to ensure reforms in the electoral act where necessary.

Also, the commission defended the integrity of the staff of INEC, stating that they are not partisan in the daily conduct of their duties.

The commission was reacting to inquiries and the position of INEC on the Supreme Court verdict and the statement by Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma, wherein he accused staff of the commission as being partisan.

INEC, in a statement by its Commissioner and Chairman of the Voter, Education and Publicity, Festus Okoye, explained that it would resist any temptation to be drawn into the propriety or otherwise of the outcome of courts and election tribunals.

“The commission will resist the invitation to be drawn into the debate on the propriety, correctness or otherwise of the decisions of the various Election Petitions Tribunals and the courts as the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) have clearly and comprehensively delineated the powers and areas of jurisdiction of various institutions of our democracy.

“Decisions of courts and tribunal are final and the rule of law dictates that all authorities and persons give effect to them,” the commission said.

The statement added that INEC would focus on its efforts and that of other stakeholders to bring about necessary reforms to give Nigerians comprehensive and robust electoral framework that would take care of perceived and identified flaws in the electoral process.

INEC enjoined political parties and candidates to develop the democratic spirit and assist the commission in the conduct of free and transparent elections.

The commission assured Nigerians that it would remain focused and determined to continue with improvements in the electoral process and solidify the sovereign right of the Nigerian people to freely choose their representatives.

INEC said it conducted general elections in 2019 to fill 1,558 positions, explaining that arising from the conduct of the elections, some of the political parties and candidates filed petitions before the various Election Petitions Tribunals and Courts to ventilate their grievances and all the petitions have been determined.

For the records, it said a total of 807 post-election petitions were filed, out of which 582 were dismissed, 183 withdrawn by the petitioners and only 30 petitions, representing less than two per cent of the total resulted in orders by the tribunals and courts to the commission to rerun the elections.

Subsequently, it added that the commission conducted court-ordered re-run elections in 30 constituencies in 12 states of the federation and made declarations and returns.

According to the commission, in the re-run elections in the South-east Nigeria, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) won the election in two constituencies in Abia State. In the three constituencies where the commission conducted elections in Imo State, the Action Alliance (AA), the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) secured one seat each.

It also noted that the commission conducted the court-ordered re-run elections under very difficult circumstances occasioned by the desperation and unwholesome activities of some of the political actors bent on compromising and disrupting the process, thus endangering the safety of the staff and attempting to secure their predetermined outcomes.

“Staff of the commission risked their lives, performed under delicate conditions and engaged in electoral operations aimed at protecting the integrity of the process and ensuring credible outcomes.

“The commission’s code of conduct ensures that all our staff remain non-partisan in the discharge of their official duties. This is the only way they can maintain the delicate balance between all the contending political parties and candidates in the political process,” the statement said.

INEC added that it’s therefore unhelpful and counter-productive to profile senior staff of the commission operating in any part of the country and paint them with the brush of partisanship just to score political points.

Meanwhile, INEC said two fire incidents were reported at INEC offices in Idemili North Local Government Area in Anambra State and Orlu Local Government Area of Imo State.

It added that it has reported the two incidents to the police and fire service in the respective states and investigations are underway to determine the causes.

However, the commission said no life was lost and that the extent of the damage is still being assessed.