Gov polls: Transmit results electronically, court orders INEC
A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Friday, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to electronically transmit Saturday’s governorship and House of Assembly election results in accordance with its regulations and guidelines.
Justice Obiora Egwuatu in a judgment also ordered the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System to upload a scanned copy of the form EC8A to the INEC Result Viewing Portal immediately after the completion of all the polling unit voting in Akwa Ibom.
The judge further directed the commission to conspicuously paste the publication of its result posters EC60(E) at polling units after completing the EC8A result sheets in the state.
He equally 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 party for the distribution of electoral materials and personnel.
He gave the judgment following a suit filed by the Labour Party and its governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom, Uduakobong Udoh, including 13 state House of Assembly candidates for the March 18 elections.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the applicants, in the originating summons marked FHC/ABJ/CS/334/2023, dated and filed on March 15 by their lawyer, Moses Usoh-Abia, had sued INEC as the sole defendant.
They 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 to upload a scanned copy of the EC8A to INEC Result Viewing Portal immediately after the completion of all the polling units voting and result 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.
NAN reports that Justice Egwuatu had, on Wednesday, granted leave to the applicants to proceed with a judicial review, filed requisite motion and put INEC on notice, following an ex-parte motion moved by Usoh-Abia.
Upon resumed hearing on the matter on Friday, Usoh-Abia informed that he had complied with the earlier court order and that their motion was served on INEC same Wednesday.
The lawyer said despite the service of their process, the commission was not represented in court.
The judge, however, said that he noticed INEC’s counter affidavit and a preliminary objection to their originating summons in the court file.
He said the application was filed on Thursday.
Responding, Usoh-Abia said though they were yet to be served by the commission, he was ready to proceed with the matter due to the urgency of the case.
He said the motion, dated March 15, had 26-paragrph affidavit with nine exhibits.
The lawyer urged the court to direct the electoral umpire to comply with its regulations and guidelines of Clauses 37 and 38 on the conduct of the elections.
He said the order was necessary because the commission, in the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly polls, failed to transmit results of the elections in the state and across the country.
Usoh-Abia said INEC’s refusal to comply with the law had resulted in serious prejudice; and had foisted uncertainty and frustration on his clients at their various polling units and wards.
The lawyer said if the order was not granted, the same scenario would repeat itself in the Saturday’s poll.
But INEC, in its preliminary objection, said the suit was incompetent and the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain it.
The commission argued that the applicants had not established a justifiable action against it.
It also said that the applicants acted in contravention of the practice direction by commencing the suit via originating summons.
Delivering judgment, Justice Egwuatu said he was satisfied that the applicants had complied with the practice direction rules in the filing of their application.