The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Friday, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to upload the results of Saturday’s governorship and House of Assembly elections to its INEC Result Viewing(IReV) immediately after counting of ballots at various polling units across Akwa Ibom State.
The judge, Obiora Egwuatu, gave the judgement on a suit filed by the Labour Party (LP), its governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom State, Uduakobong Udoh, and 13 House of Assembly candidates of the party in the 18 March elections in the state.
The judge ordered that INEC must upload the results from the polling units in the state to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) in accordance with its regulations and guidelines.
He ordered the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) to upload scanned copies of the result forms EC8A to the IReV portal immediately after counting at the polling units in Akwa Ibom State.
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 for the distribution of electoral materials and personnel.
Mr Egwuatu 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, energise its performance.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the applicants’ suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/334/2023 was filed on 15 March.
The suit has INEC as the sole defendant.
It was filed on behalf of the applicants through their lawyer, Moses Usoh-Abia,
The applicants prayed the court seven prayers, one of which was, 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.
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 (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 for the distribution of electoral materials and personnel, among other reliefs.
NAN reports that the judge, Mr Egwuatu, had, on Wednesday, granted leave to the applicants to proceed with a judicial review, filed the requisite motion, and put INEC on notice, following an ex-parte motion moved by Mr Usoh-Abia.
Upon resumed hearing on the matter on Friday, Mr Usoh-Abia informed that he had complied with the earlier court order and that their motion was served on INEC the 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’s file.
He said the application was filed on Thursday.
Responding, Mr 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 15 March, had a 26-paragraph 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 Feb. 25 Presidential and National Assembly polls, failed to transmit the results of the elections in the state and across the country.
He argued that INEC created the regulations and guidelines pursuant to Sections 148 and 60(5) of the Electoral Act, 2022 to guide the conduct of elections and collating of election results among others.
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 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, Mr Egwuatu said he was satisfied that the applicants had complied with the practice direction rules in the filing of their application.
He also said a cause of action had been established against INEC in the paragraphs of the applicants’ process.
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The judge, therefore, ordered INEC to direct all its presiding officers to comply with Clauses 37 and 38 of its regulations and guidelines for the conduct of Saturday’s election in Akwa Ibom.
He held that the commission had the legal duty to act in accordance with the law.
The judge, however, refused to grant other reliefs.
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