The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said no law in Nigeria empowered it to cancel results of the just concluded governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States.
INEC made this known through its National Commissioner of Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye.
Speaking at an interactive session with the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room on Wednesday, Okoye said Section 26 of the Electoral Act only gave INEC the power to postpone an impending election.
The INEC Commissioner said elections can only be postponed provided that such reason for the postponement is cogent and verifiable.
Festus Okoye said: “Those of us who are in INEC and CSOs have a responsibility to understand the processes and procedures of the Commission and how it functions and some of the powers donated to the Commission, the limitations of those powers and how they can be exercised and how they cannot be exercised.
“I say this because, on the issue of cancellation and whether INEC could have cancelled the elections, my own understanding of the rules of interpretation is that when the intention of the legislature is very clear, you give a particular provision its ordinary meaning. You can’t give any other meaning into the provisions of the law if the intentions of the lawmakers are very clear.
“I believe that the intentions of the lawmakers can be deduced from the clear wording of section 26 of the Electoral Act. It gives the Commission the power to postpone, not cancel an election before the election starts.
“It says that where a date has been appointed for the holding of an election and there is reason to believe that there is a serious breach of peace is likely to occur if the election proceeds on that day or that it is impossible to conduct the election as a result of natural disaster or other emergencies, the Commission may postpone the election and in respect of the area or areas concerned, appoint another day for the holding of the election provided that such reason for the postponement is cogent and verifiable.
“There is no provision of the law that gives the Commission the power to cancel. The law gave the commission the power to postpone an election and then go back if the conditions have improved.
“My second point is that if you look at the decisions of the Supreme Court in relation to our processes and procedures, it states clearly that the moment a presiding officer has announced the results from a polling unit, the Chairman of INEC does not have the power to cancel the result from the particular unit. In other words, each polling unit is sovereign in its own right. So the fact that there is a problem in one polling unit does not concomitantly mean that there is a problem in another polling unit. The moment a presiding officer has announced, there is nothing we can do about it.”