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2023 Elections: Appeal Court Slams INEC, Says It Acted Irresponsibly

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Breaking: INEC Retires 4 Directors From Service Based On Fresh FG Directive

On Friday, the Court of Appeal, sitting in Abuja, descended heavily on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), accusing it of being partisan.

The appellate court said it was embarrassing that the Commission could appear before it to act in favour of a party in an election dispute by disowning documents that it not only issued but also duly certified.

It expressed dismay at the electoral body’s persistent lack of neutrality in election litigations, likening it to dancing naked in the market despite its obligation to maintain impartiality.

“The INEC as an institution should be reminded of its role in an election; to be an unbiased umpire between parties.

“It should stop behaving irresponsibly, having in mind that its duty to conduct election has a direct bearing on peace and well-being of the country.

“The role of INEC in election dispute should be limited to the tendering of all the documents used in an election and explaining what they were used for and how they were obtained.

“INEC should stop dancing naked in the market, pretending that no one is seeing its nakedness and its dancing steps,” the court stated while delivering judgment in a Bauchi State House of Assembly election appeal.”

Justice K. I. Amadi delivered the lead judgement of a three-member court panel.

In a unanimous decision, the panel nullified the election of Abubakar Suleiman, the Speaker of the Bauchi State House of Assembly, who had been previously declared the winner of Ningi Central Constituency by INEC.

The court determined that the evidence presented indicated the election was inconclusive. Alongside voiding the Certificate of Return issued to Suleiman, who contested under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the appellate court instructed INEC to organize a supplementary poll in 10 polling units within the state within a 90-day timeframe.

Additionally, the court imposed a cost of N500,000 against INEC.

This ruling stemmed from an appeal brought before the court by Khalid Abdulmalik-Ningi, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in the election.

INEC had declared Abubakar Suleiman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner with 16,866 votes, defeating Abdulmalik-Ningi of the APC, who secured 15,065 votes in the March 18 election.

Dissatisfied with the results, the APC candidate filed a petition before the State Assembly Election Petition Tribunal.

The petitioner, among other claims, asserted that the election results were nullified due to over-voting or corrupt practices.

Despite INEC, a respondent in the case, denying the allegation of over-voting, it failed to present any witnesses before the tribunal, which subsequently dismissed the petition.

In critiquing the tribunal’s decision, the appellate court highlighted that the appellant provided nine witnesses who testified about various polling units and submitted certified copies of INEC documents to support the case.

The court, citing Section 137 of the Electoral Act 2022, emphasized that the certified INEC documents were sufficient to substantiate the claim that the election did not adhere to legal provisions.

The court questioned INEC’s denial of result cancellations in certain polling units when its officials had acknowledged the same in Forms EC 40G they signed and submitted.

It asserted that the tribunal had the statutory authority to assign probative value to the INEC documents, which, in its view, contained all necessary information to demonstrate the alleged non-compliance.