The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has urged the President of Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, to help address delays in serving the commission full judgments from election tribunals.
The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made the appeal when he led national commissioners and management staff of the commission on a courtesy visit to Bulkachuwa on Monday in Abuja.
He said the commission was aware of the pressure on judges but the delay also constituted huge challenge on the commission in obeying court orders.
He added that “we understand the enormous pressure on judges and justices of tribunals generally, both the tribunal and appeal.
“In one case, a panel of three justices of appeal tribunal nullified 37 elections and had to write separate judgments for each case.
“Three or a maximum of five justices writing 37 judgments: each case treated on its own merit and each case has its judgment written.
“So, I sometime find it difficult to complain, knowing the reality but speaking from the point of view of INEC, I wish to draw your attention to area of difficulties for us.
“That is the availability of full judgment in cases where Appeal Tribunal orders INEC to conduct rerun election in specific polling units as against the entire constituency.
“The order will say go and conduct rerun election in four polling units but what are the polling units? the details are in the full judgment and we do not have it in good time.”
Yakubu said “though INEC, according to the law, has 90 days to conduct rerun, sometime the order is that it should be conducted within 60 days, not 90 days.”
He added that the full details of the report sometime would be delayed for seven days, in which INEC needed the collaboration of other stakeholders to conduct such ordered elections.
He said these made it difficult for the commission to be well prepared for the ordered rerun elections.
Yakubu listed situation where the commission was dragged into litigation that ordinarily should not be involved, as another source of worry that needed the president’s intervention.
He appealed that the development be looked into to make the work of the commission easy.
Yakubu also expressed concern over situation where INEC was being dragged to court over matters it had no connection with.
One of such, he added, was litigation relating to local government elections, conducted by states.
“The case arising from local government elections are treated by State High Courts, but in two cases now, INEC has been dragged to Federal High Court over conduct of local government elections.’’
He said that the commission shouldn’t be joined because the implication was that INEC
would have to spend resources to engage lawyers and other costs in the litigation.
“If there is a clear court order on such cases, it would be very helpful,” Yakubu said.
He, however, disclosed that the commission had obeyed all court orders to conduct rerun elections in nullified elections in 2015, as well as order to issue certificates of return to some candidates.
“There is no single court order that we have not obeyed. In fact, sometime we obey court order before we even exercise our right to appeal.
“Even where we are confronted with judgment of the lower court contradicting the judgment of a superior court, we uphold the judgment of the superior court before we call attention out of respect for the judiciary.’’
“I want to assure you that in INEC you will find a government agency that is 100 per cent compliant to court orders.’’
In her response, Bulkachuwa said a synergy between INEC and Court of Appeal in relation to Election Petition Tribunals and Appeals was encouraged for the proper and smooth running of the 2019 general elections.
She disclosed that no fewer than 730 petitions were received by the court following the conduct of 2015 general elections, including the 21 petitions filed in the 2017 Anambra governorship poll.