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INEC Laments High Cost Of Lawsuits As South-South Leads In Election Petitions Filing

“All the 1,209 petitions filed, we are expected to appear. We have lawyers in the commission but it is a small department…”

Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

Litigations emanating from elections conducted in Nigeria usually come from the South-South geo-political zone of the country, a new report released on Wednesday by Kimpact Development Initiative (KDI), has said.

The 138-page document in possession of Arise News, also revealed that 1,209 petitions were filed by candidates and political parties after the 2023 general elections.

Out of the 1,209 petitions, 206 were withdrawn and eventually struck out, 110 dismissed, 790 outrightly refused by the EPT panels and only 103 petitions upheld. 

The report revealed that since 2015, all the States that have accepted governorship election results on the first ballot are Northern States. 

Team lead of KDI, Bukola Idowu, during the presentation of the report titled Election Tribunal Monitoring Project (ETMP), said that the Nigerian judiciary is constantly inundated with electoral disputes.

The report, conducted by KDI, a civil society organization that advances good governance and democratic rights, with support from International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), also noted the role of the judiciary in the Nigerian Election Dispute Resolution (EDR) process by monitoring the Election Petitions Tribunals (EPTs) adherence to legal frameworks all the way to the Supreme Courts. 

The document therefore recommended the establishment of a standing and specialized court that will handle pre- and post-election dispute resolution and electoral offence. 

During the 2023 presidential election, the document revealed that five petitions challenged the President’s return, with the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) dismissing three and two of the petitions withdrawn by the petitioner. 

An overview of the governorship elections held in 28 states showed that 83 petitions were filed to challenge the outcome of the elections in 24 States. 

The report said while 32 were withdrawn and eventually struck out, seven were dismissed, adding that the EPT panels outrightly refused 42 while only two petitions were upheld. 

“At the appeal level, the governorship tussle was very dynamic. Of the 33 appeals filed in 21 states at the Court of Appeal, only three were upheld, 27 were refused, and three were withdrawn. Only three of the 31 appeals filed at the Supreme Court were upheld. This is similar if we consider the overall 1209 petition filed at the court of first instance; the Tribunal upheld only 8.5 per cent and refused 65.3 per cent  of these”, the document emphasized. 

The report said while it was obvious that the decision to accept or contest election results is influenced by a complex interplay of legal, political, and strategic considerations, different politicians and parties might make different choices based on their specific circumstances and assessments of the election.

The document said out of the 28 states where governorship elections were conducted, four states – Katsina, Kwara, Niger, and.Yobe chose not to petition the outcome of the governorship elections in their states. 

The document revealed that the South-South was at the forefront of petition filing with 276 petitions. South East followed closely behind with 259

petitions. North West and North Central are in-between, with 211 and 171 petitions, respectively. 

The report said that South West was not far below with 168 petitions, adding that  North East has the least number of petitions filed by going to the EPT, with 124 petitions. 

While comparing the petitions filed by 

geo-political zones since 2015, the document showed that the South-South region had consistently been leading in the number of petitions filed for three consecutive years, with the South East following in the second place. The North West zone however had the least number of petitions filed in 2015. 

The report said, “Correspondingly, this report revealed some patterns in the acceptance of election results at the first ballot – the States in Northern Nigeria continues to file fewer petitions than Southern Nigeria. 

“Also, since 2015, all the states that have accepted governorship election results on the first ballot are northern states. This report investigated how cultural and religious considerations continue to play a part in this. How consensus-building and significant influence by Northern religious and traditional leaders on public opinion and political behavior can shape the culture of election result acceptance

“Yet, considering the trend- cultural and religious factors still play a role 

in this. Interaction with field monitors show that there is a greater emphasis on consensus-building and significant influence by northern religious and traditional leaders on public opinion and political behavior. These leaders often use informal alternative dispute resolution to push for a balance of power and shape how election results are perceived and accepted. In some cases, like the States mentioned above, it has led to a greater willingness to accept election outcomes without dispute than it is in the southern region.

The Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, represented by his Special Adviser, Prof. Mohammad Kuna, lamented the huge cost incurred by INEC in defending election litigations.

The INEC chief who refused to mention the amount expended by INEC in defending appeals that arose from the 2023 general elections, told candidates and political parties to embrace alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to sort out their differences. 

According to him, the conversation  shouldn’t be about whether the ballot box or courtroom should be the final determinant of elections, adding that both the ballot and courts are parts of the election process. 

He said, “This conservation started since 2011. There are questions whether the commission should defend the elections it conducted or not. There is also an argument that what only the commission should is to provide evidence but not to defend its activities on election day. 

“As far as the legal framework is concerned, we are joined in petitions and we go to defend.”

Amount spent by INEC to defend 2023 elections

“I can’t give you a figure off head but it is a huge amount of money. All the 1,209 petitions filed, we are expected to appear. We have lawyers in the commission but it is a small department and we need to depend on getting people outside. So it is huge money”, Kuna stated.

Friday Olokor, Abuja 

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