The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has expressed concern over the conflicting judgments and consequential orders emanating from courts, ahead of the forthcoming general polls.
The inconsistency, INEC Chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu noted, is putting the commission in a difficult situation.
In the last one week, there were two different court pronouncements on Zamfara State All Progressives Congress (APC) primaries – one coming from a High Court in Zamfara and an Abuja High Court issuing a different order concerning INEC decision excluding the APC from the state from the coming elections as a result of not conducting their primaries within deadline.
Already, the commission has been sued into 396 pre-election cases pending court cases as a result of the fallout of the party primaries.
Besides, the commission has so far received 302 requests for Certified True Copies (CTCs) of documents from primaries monitored, which serves as a prelude for more legal actions.
This is aside the 52 petitions on protests from aggrieved party aspirants received by the commission – all have financial implications for INEC.
INEC has fixed February 16 for the presidential and March 2 National Assembly polls been slated for the governorship, state assembly and council elections.
Speaking yesterday at a workshop on election petition for justice and judges, Yakubu noted the inevitability of disputes in the course of democratic elections.
He, therefore, explained that because democratic elections are adjudicated by the Judiciary, the commission has always been obeying court orders.
He expressed the concern of the commission regarding conflicting orders from the court.
Prof Yakubu said: “On our part, there are two major areas of concern. First is the issue of conflicting judgements arising from pre-election and post-election cases. As a firm believer in the rule of law, the commission always obeys court orders or, where it is considered necessary, appeals them in the interest of justice.
“There have been over 1,200 cases involving the commission since the 2015 general elections and not in a single case has the commission disobeyed a court order. However, conflicting judgements, especially by courts of co-ordinate jurisdiction at the high court level, are putting the commission in a very difficult position and creating uncertainty in the process.
‘The court in one judicial division may order the commission on a particular course of action only to be contradicted by another court of coordinate jurisdiction from another division or even within the same division on the same subject matter. Conflicting court orders are negatively affecting the consistency, neutrality, and public perception, not only of the commission, but the judiciary as well. There is, therefore, the urgent need to address the issue of conflicting judgements in order to engender certainty in the electoral process.
“Our second area of concern relates to the lack of consequential Orders by the courts after making findings on an issue and stating the position. In such cases, the Commission is compelled to take a position relying on previous decisions of the Court on the subject.”