The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has again expressed concerns over the conflicting court orders granted to political parties and their candidates.
INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu raised the concerns at a meeting with political party leaders in Abuja, ahead of the governorship election in Anambra State.
“It appears that in a number of electoral cases in Nigeria today, the settled law is now unsettled and the time-honoured principle of certain decisions doesn’t seem to matter anymore,” Professor Yakubu said.
“The more INEC strives to improve the credibility and transparency of our electoral process, the more obstacles are put in our way through litigation.”
These conflicting court orders, the INEC boss warned, pose major challenges for the electoral process and are capable of hurting the country’s democracy.
“I’m aware that some of the cases are still court and are therefore subjudice,” Professor Yakubu said.
“I must say that some of the decided cases are making our work difficult and we have been crying out loud for a long time.
“In particular, some pre-election litigations relating to the nomination of candidates for elections were not determined until after the elections.”
The INEC chairman’s comments come two weeks after the commission’s National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voter Education, Mr Festus Okoye, expressed similar concerns, and amid debates about the implications of the conflicting judgements. The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammed, has also intervened.
While Mr Okoye called on the judiciary to intervene in the matter to protect the electoral process, his boss Professor Yakubu took it further, advising politicians to avoid actions that hurt the electoral process.
He told the political leaders that even when elections are conducted, some litigations make it impossible for INEC to issue Certificates of Return to winners.
He also warned that “contracted and conflicting litigations” result in situations “where courts rather than votes determine winners of elections”
“This situation is compounded by cases on the leadership of political parties, therefore making the exercise of our regulatory responsibilities difficult,” he added.
“Consequently, in some instances, political parties were declared winners without candidates to immediately receive the Certificates of Return.”
On Monday, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), who is also the Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC), held a marathon meeting with the six chief judges invited over the conflicting ex parte orders emanating from different judges across the country.
The spokesperson of the NJC, Soji Oye, disclosed in a statement that the meeting lasted about six hours with the Chief Judge of the High Court of the FCT also in attendance.
He said the CJN first had a one-on-one interaction with the Chief Justice of the FCT, Abuja, and then the Chief Judges of Rivers, Kebbi, Cross River, Jigawa, Anambra, and Imo.
“Three of the judges who granted conflicting ex parte orders have been invited to appear before the NJC to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against them for granting such orders,” the statement read.
The CJN warned the chief judges to desist from the practice of designating newly appointed judicial officers as vacation judges and assigning complex cases to inexperienced judges.
He advised all heads of courts to be current on the developments in the polity and the judgments delivered by courts of various jurisdictions and to urgently issue practice direction to guide judges in their various courts to avoid giving conflicting decisions.