By Esther Blankson
A Federal High Court, Abuja, has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to electronically transmit the results of the March 18 governorship and House of Assembly elections in line with regulations and guidelines.
Justice Obiora Egwuatu, in a judgment on Friday, also ordered the use of the bimodal voter accreditation system to upload a scanned copy of the EC8A to the INEC result viewing portal immediately after the completion of all the polling unit voting and result procedures in Akwa Ibom.
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 for the distribution of electoral materials and personnel.
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.
He gave the judgment following a suit filed by the Labour Party, its governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom, Uduakobong Udoh, and 13 state House of Assembly candidates for the March 18 elections.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria, the applicants, in the originating summons marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/334/2023, dated and filed on March 15 by their lawyer, Moses Usoh-Abia, had sued INEC as the sole defendant.
The applicants, who sought seven reliefs, prayed the court for 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 Saturday’s governorship and House of Assembly elections in Akwa Ibom.
Among others, they also urged the court to mandate the presiding officers at all polling units to conspicuously paste the publication of result posters EC460(E) at the polling units after completing the EC8A result sheets.
The applicants’ lawyer said the order was necessary because the commission, in the February 25 presidential and National Assembly polls, failed to transmit the results 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 added that 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 that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain it.
The commission argued that the applicants had not established a justifiable action against it.
Delivering judgment, Justice Egwuatu said he was satisfied that the applicants had complied with the practice direction rules in the filing of their application. The judge, however, refused to grant other reliefs.
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress, and Social Democratic Party, in Lagos State, have applied for leave to appeal the judgement of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos that ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to electronically transmit the results of Saturday’s governorship and House of Assembly elections.
The APC said it deemed it fit to appeal the judgement in the case in which it was not a party because the judgment delivered also affected it as a sponsor in the same elections as the SDP.
This followed the suit brought before the court by the Labour Party and its governorship candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, wherein Justice P. O. Lifu ruled that INEC electronically or digitally transmitted results.
Respondents in the appeal by the APCl are the LP, Rhodes-Vivour, 40 other chieftains of the party, and INEC.
Accordingly, in the suit filed by its counsels at the appellate court, APC is seeking five reliefs, including “an order granting leave to the applicant to appeal as an interested party against the final decision of the Federal High Court, delivered by Justice Lifu”.
It is also seeking “an order granting a departure from the rules of this court, by permitting and deeming the separate filing of the notice of appeal (in terms of the proposed notice and grounds) filed at the registry of the Appeal Court, rather than the registry of the court below, as properly filed and served”.