Mike Igini, a former resident electoral commissioner (REC) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Akwa Ibom, says election petition tribunals are breeding grounds for corruption in the country.

Igini spoke on Wednesday at an election dialogue series organised in memory of Ariyo Dare-Atoye, an activist who supported the promotion of electoral reforms in the country.

Dare-Atoye died of cancer in October.

The event, which held in Abuja, was organised by the Abuja School of Social and Political Thought.

The former REC lamented that politicians brag of having friends as judges who can influence certain decisions in their favour.

He said section 137 of the Electoral Act, 2022 prevents a party from calling witnesses to testify on an alleged misconduct if there is no documentary evidence to back the claim.

“Section 137 is in effect, as before, at the tribunal a party will say I have 300 witnesses that it wants to invite. No more witnesses will be called again because the INEC election is purely documentary,” Igini said.

“Every document you see in INEC has a code up to the polling unit. So, they (parties) use that to be hostile, to frustrate the election petitioner. What INEC, going forward, is [looking at] is that there can be elections where you don’t need anyone to go to the tribunal. We must end going to tribunal in Nigeria.

“Today, we spend more money at the tribunal than the normal election and that is why there is a struggle by politicians to control the judiciary. Politicians today are bragging ‘I have this judge as my friend’. They brag about it and the judges share their bribes.

“We are going to end the business of election tribunals in this country and that is the direction INEC is going. The future of Nigeria is in our hands. The 2023 national election is so important because today Nigerians are fed up. There is anger in the land. There’s hunger in the land.”

In his remarks, Sam Amadi, director of the school, said recent developments in the electoral space have shown that INEC needs to put in place measures to ensure that the 2023 elections are successful.

“This dialogue is to continue the work he (Dare-Atoye) has done, to deepen and ensure that his work bears fruits,” Amadi added.

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