Monday 27 March 2023

INEC to spend N3bn in fighting electoral cases

The Independent National Electoral Commission has budgeted over N3bn to defend the results of the February 25 presidential and national assembly election and the March 18 governorship and state assembly polls.

Several candidates who lost in the elections have filed petitions at the presidential and state election petition tribunals to challenge the outcome of the polls.


So far, over 100 election petitions have been filed by aggrieved candidates and their parties across the country.

The presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar; the Labour Party, Peter Obi; the Action Alliance, Solomon Okangbuan; Allied People’s Movement, Chichi Ojei, have also filed petitions for the nullification of the presidential election results.

INEC had on March 1 declared the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, as the winner of the February 25 presidential election, but the five candidates filed petitions seeking the nullification of the poll.

Also, election petition tribunals in over 12 states have equally received petitions from National Assembly candidates who are not satisfied with the results of the just concluded elections.

The states where the petitions had been received included Edo, Plateau, Ondo, Kwara, Ogun, Bayelsa, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Bauchi, Lagos and Niger states.


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Some aggrieved candidates had protested in Ogun and Nasarawa states, vowing to challenge the results of the elections in court.

Last November, the INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu lamented that the commission was handling over 600 cases in several courts across the federation.

Speaking at a capacity-building workshop for over 300 judges that would handle election disputes, he revealed that the cases pending against the electoral body relate to the conduct of primaries by political parties.

However, INEC in its Election Project Plan for the 2023 general election earmarked N3b for the prosecution of election-related cases.

The document which was obtained on Sunday read, in part, “Litigation and prosecution: N2,104,965,000 (2022) and #3,087,195,425 (2023). Total, N5,192,160,425.’’

The INEC election project plan also showed that the electoral umpire budgeted N886.2m for legal drafting and clearance in 2022 and 2023.

The commission allocated N337.4m for legal drafting and clearance in 2022 while N548.7m was budgeted for the same item for this year.

The number of lawyers the electoral commission would engage to handle the numerous election petition cases lodged at the tribunals is yet to be known.

The Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi said he did not know the number of solicitors that would be employed by the commission when asked on Sunday.

But the PDP and the All Progressives Grand Alliance have chided the commission over the amount budgeted for litigations, saying INEC must be above board.

Speaking in a telephone conversation with our correspondent on Sunday, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Debo Ologunagba, urged the media to ‘rise and condemn the wastefulness of INEC.’’

He said, “Nigerians should ask INEC why they are spending so much to defend election cases. We have condemned the conduct of the 2023 general elections by INEC. The media should rise and condemn the wastefulness of INEC.

“How can an institution that spent over N300bn for BVAS use another N3bn for litigations? The expectation was that there would be no crisis of credibility after the deployment of BVAS.”

Similarly, APGA National Chairman, Mr Victor Oye expressed worry over the huge amount the commission proposed to spend on the defence of the election it conducted.

“It is very worrisome. This shows that there are likely to be more election petitions in 2023 than we had in 2019 (election). It is not a good development because this huge amount could have been deployed for more developmental purposes.

“If elections are generally acceptable as free, fair and credible; there would be no need for these numbers of cases. This calls for INEC to be more responsible in the discharge of its constitutional mandate,” Oye submitted.

But the National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, Felix Morka, argued that there was nothing ‘extraordinary’ in INEC’s plan to defend itself against the plethora of election petitions and other lawsuits slammed against it.

While shying from commenting on the budget involved, Morka maintained that it was within the right of INEC to defend the conduct and outcome of the elections.

He said, “I don’t know anything about their finances or budget for the election petition litigation. But what I can say is that INEC is the electoral umpire, the agency charged with the duty to conduct elections for Nigeria. That duty extends to litigating or defending any lawsuit arising from that election.



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