The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been ordered by an Abuja High Court on Friday, to transmit the result of Saturday’s governorship and house of assembly’s election electronically, in line with electoral laws.
The order came from a suit instituted by the Labour Party and its governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom, Uduakobong Udoh, including 13 state’s House of Assembly candidates for the March 18 elections, NAN reports.
The suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/334/2023 was filed on March 15 by Moses Usoh-Abia against INEC on behalf of the LP and its candidates, praying the court to compel the electoral umpire to follow the regulations and guidelines of the 2022 Electoral Act.
In the suit, which contains seven prayers, asked the court for an order of mandamus compelling INEC and all its agents to comply with and enforce the provision of Clause 37 of the Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of the Saturday’s governorship and house of assembly elections in Akwa Ibom.
The applicants also prayed the court to mandate the presiding officers of all polling units to conspicuously paste the publication of result posters EC460(E) at the polling units after completing the EC8A result sheets.
They sought an order of mandamus compelling the commission to mandate the presiding officers of all polling units in the state to electronically transmit or transfer the result of the polling units, direct to the collation system and use the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, to upload a scanned copy of the EC8A to INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) immediately after the completion of all the polling units voting and results procedures.
They said this was in compliance with the provision of Clause 38 of the guidelines for the conduct of the polls.
The applicants equally prayed for an order directing INEC to enforce the observance and compliance of Section 27(1) of the Electoral Act, 2022 in the distribution of electoral materials during the conduct of the polls by engaging the services of independent, competent, and reliable logistic companies who are non-partisans or known supporters of any political party for the distribution of electoral materials and personnel, among other reliefs.
Delivering his judgment, Justice Obiora Egwuatu ordered the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) to upload a scanned copy of the EC8A to INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) immediately after the completion of all the polling units voting and results’ procedures in Akwa Ibom.
He further held that the commission should conspicuously paste the publication of its result posters EC60(E) at polling units after completing the EC8A result sheets in the state.
Egwuatu ordered INEC to enforce the observance and compliance of Section 27(1) of the Electoral Act, 2022 in the distribution of electoral materials during the conduct of the polls in the state by engaging the services of independent, competent, and reliable logistic companies who are non-partisans or known supporters of any political for the distribution of electoral materials and personnel.
He further held that since the electoral umpire averred in its filed affidavit that it was aware of its responsibilities under the law and had not failed to carry them out, granting the prayers sought by the applicants would not do any harm to the commission but instead, energize its performance.
The ruling has revived the hope of electorates across the countries, who have been worried that the Saturday election may end up like the presidential election.
Usoh-Abia had told the court that INEC’s refusal to comply with the law during the February 25 presidential election resulted in serious prejudice; and had foisted uncertainty and frustration on his clients at their various polling units and wards.
However, there is still concern that the governorship election, especially in states like Lagos, Rivers and AKwa Ibom, will become another test of credibility that INEC is likely going to fail. Pro democracy activists say it is most concerning that political parties have to get court order to compel the electoral umpire to follow electoral laws in conducting election.
Allaying this concern, INEC assured Nigerians that the 28 governorship and 993 House of Assembly polls will be conducted in line with electoral rules and regulations.
INEC Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, disclosed this during an interview on Arise TV on Friday. He said among other things, the original result will be scanned and uploaded to INEC Result Viewing Portal for public viewing.
“The commission is determined to improve on its previous performance. What we have done is to learn valuable lessons from previous elections that we conducted, and we’re going to put those lessons into our planning purposes and processes, and into our deployment purposes,” Okoye said.