The Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has decried the high level of conflicting electoral judgement in the nation’s judiciary saying it appear inconsistent with the existing laws.
The INEC boss, who stressed the need to amend some certain rules governing the resolution of electoral disputes in the country, said that judicial precedence is more important and should be spared of impunity by political actors.
Prof. Yakubu was speaking at the National Conference on Election Petition Tribunals and Appeals organised by the Court of Appeal with the theme “Election Petition Tribunals and Appeals; an Overview”.
While lamenting the high cost of conducting re-run elections in the country Prof. Yakubu said that it was more challenging to manage re-run elections arising from candidates’ disqualification.
According to him, “ while it is appreciated that the Courts treat each case on its merits, certain trends point to conflicting judgments on similar cases by different Judicial division of the Court of Appeal”.
He said there are instances where elections were nullified and INEC was ordered to conduct a re-run simply for the sake of conducting elections in a specific polling unit.
He said that, after wasting time and resources, the outcome of such election do not make any material difference to the original result declared by INEC which made substantial compliance with the electoral act.
“ In the case of Lafia/Obi Federal Constituency in Nasarawa State, Appeal Court ordered INEC to conduct a re-run in Angwan Doka Polling Unit 004 with just over 1,000 registered voters.
“ The candidate declared winner by INEC in the 2015 General election pooled over 74, 000 votes while the runner-up had a little over 70,000 votes.
“ The number of registered voters in the polling unit could not have altered the result in any way and even the voters are aware of the reality.
“ When INEC conducted a re-run election in that polling unit only 25 voters turned up to cast their votes and the election which has no utilitarian value cost the nation N3.2 million” he lamented.
He said that, 680 election cases were filed against INEC after the 2015 General elections and 580 out these cases were dismissed by the tribunals and Court of Appeal.
Yakubu said that the commission has no judicial powers over the outcome of the elections it has conducted, saying that, each time an Appeal Court determined a case, INEC was always ordered to undertake one form of consequential action.
Earlier, the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, in her remark, said that the court received 749 Appeals emanating from the decisions of the various election petition tribunals.
Bulkachuwa said, despite the challenges of time, the Justices of the court had managed to dispose the appeals within the stipulated period as required by law.
She further stressed that the conference will avail the opportunity for the judges to reflect on the general conduct of the exercise, identify the challenges and map a way forward.
“I urged your Lordships to take maximum advantage of this conference, interact freely, share your experiences and challenges encountered at the Tribunals and appeal Tribunals in order to come out with solutions that will benefit the Nigerian Judiciary in particular and Nigeria” she said.