In Abuja, the Court of Appeal strongly criticized the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Friday, accusing it of displaying partisanship. The court expressed embarrassment that INEC could advocate for a party in an election dispute by disavowing documents it not only issued but also properly certified.
The court lamented that INEC, meant to maintain a neutral stance in election litigations, has been acting in a biased manner, metaphorically stating that it continues to “dance naked in the market.” The court emphasized that INEC’s role should be that of an unbiased umpire, and it urged the commission to conduct itself responsibly, considering that its duty to conduct elections directly affects the peace and well-being of the country.
During the delivery of judgment in an appeal related to the Bauchi State House of Assembly election, Justice K. I. Amadi, leading a three-member panel, nullified the election of the Speaker of the Bauchi State House of Assembly, Abubakar Suleiman. The court held that evidence established the election was inconclusive.
Apart from voiding Suleiman’s Certificate of Return (he contested on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party), the court directed INEC to conduct a supplementary poll in 10 polling units in the state within 90 days. Additionally, the court imposed a cost of N500,000 against INEC.
The appeal was brought by the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Khalid Abdulmalik-Ningi, dissatisfied with the outcome where INEC declared Suleiman of the PDP as the winner.
The court faulted the tribunal’s decision, noting that the appellant presented nine witnesses and certified copies of INEC documents, sufficient under Section 137 of the Electoral Act 2022 to sustain the allegation of non-compliance with election laws.
The court questioned why INEC denied the cancellation of results in some polling units when its officials had acknowledged the fact in Forms EC 40G submitted to the commission.
The court emphasized that the tribunal was empowered to assign probative value to the INEC documents, which disclosed essential information regarding the alleged non-compliance.
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