The Independent National Electoral Commission says it was faced with more than 1,000 pre-election litigations in the build-up to the 2023 general election.
INEC Director, Legal Drafting and Clearance, Mrs Oluwatoyin Babalola, said this in a presentation at a two-day capacity workshop for journalists in Akwanga Nasarawa State.
The presentation was titled, ‘Effects of Litigation on INEC’s Preparations for Kogi, Imo, And Bayelsa Governorship Election.’
Babalola said the pre-election litigations were borne out of primaries conducted by political parties, substitution of candidates, and failure of parties to adhere to their constitution and timetable for the conduct of the election.
Pre-election litigations are matters in which the cause of action arose before the conduct of election proper, as provided for in Section 285(14) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
She said that most of the cases were borne out of a lack of internal party democracy where political parties failed to adhere to their constitutions and guidelines.
Babalola said that the unique nature of pre-election matters could not be overlooked as judgments in that regard were capable of negatively impacting planning, logistics, funding, and certainty of participants in the conduct of the election.
She said that those judgments were sometimes delivered on the eve of the election, thereby prohibiting INEC from conducting elections for certain positions, replacing candidates after the printing of ballot papers, etc.
This, according to her, in turn, affected logistics and caused an eventual colossal waste of resources.
“Beyond the impact of pre-election matters on preparation for the election, the commission is sometimes ordered to withdraw the certificate of return issued to a candidate who emerged winner and issue a fresh certificate of return to a judgment creditor.
“After the 2019 general elections, the commission was ordered to issue 94 certificates of return in pre-election matters.
Babalola added that INEC had to withdraw seven Certificates of Return earlier issued and reissued the same pursuant to court orders in the 2023 general election.
She listed them to include Amuwo Odofin II State Constituency of Lagos State, Kontagora 1 State Constituency of Niger, Mashi/Dutsi Federal Constituency of Katsina State, Akwanga North State Constituency of Nasarawa State, Akoko South East/South West Federal Constituency of Ondo State, Fika/Ngalda State Constituency and Goya Ngeji State Constituency of Yobe.
Talking about Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi States governorship elections, Babalola said INEC was still battling with some pre-election matters.
The director said that over 11 pre-election matters were filed in respect of the elections after the publication of the final list of candidates for these elections on June 9.
She said that INEC had been served with Orders of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja ordering the commission to replace the NNPP Governorship candidate and the APGA Deputy Governorship candidate for Kogi.
She added that the Federal High Court, Owerri judicial division amongst others also ordered INEC to include the name of the PRP governorship candidate in the list of nominated candidates published on INEC website which as made on May 12.
“In another matter, the Federal High Court in Suit no. FHC/ABJ/CS/821/2023 –Chief Denesuoyefa Koloma v. Chief Sylva Timipre Marlin & 2 Ors., disqualified the candidate of the APC, Sylva Timipre Marlin.
“It also directed INEC to remove his name from the list of contestants for the office of governor of Bayelsa State on the platform of the APC or any other political party for the election.
“The Commission has complied with the judgments in respect of Kogi state via the publication of Amendment No. 1 to the Final list of candidates which was published on the Commission’s website on Sept. 26.
“The Orders as they relate to candidates will impact on the production of Form EC8E (Declaration of result),” she said.
Babalola added “It is worthy of note that the Commission is bound to comply with decisions of Courts as stipulated in Section 287 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
“The above-cited judgment on PRP will necessitate the reproduction of ballot papers in Imo State having regard to the fact that ballot papers and result sheets are customised.“
She stated other impacts of litigation on the preparation for the three governorship elections to include, the uncertainty of candidates and parties participating in the election.
Others were colossal waste of public funds and resources, waste of manpower; and tendency to create confusion among the media and electorate.
To reduce pre-election cases and their impact on the electoral process, Babalola suggested adherence by political parties to the principles of internal party democracy.
She also called for compliance with timelines in the timetable and schedule of activities for election by political parties.
“Proposal for Constitutional amendment to reduce the timelines for hearing and determination of pre-election matters.
“Proposal for a variant of the provision of Section 138 of the Electoral Act, to the effect that persons elected shall remain in office until the final determination of any appeal in pre-election matters except where there is no appeal against the decision of the trial court.
“Amendments to the Electoral Act, 2022 to accommodate new developments in the electoral process.
“More training and collaboration with the judiciary on the commission’s processes,” she said.