2023 General Elections: 891 Dismissed/Withdrawn Petitions Prove Polls Credible – INEC

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891 Dismissed, Withdrawn Petitions Prove 2023 Polls Credible – INEC

891 Dismissed, Withdrawn Petitions Prove 2023 Polls Credible – INEC
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday claimed that the dismissal and withdrawal of 891 petitions filed against the outcome of the 2023 General Election was an indication the the election was substantially credible. National Commissioner in charge of Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, Sam Olumekun, who dropped this hint, said it was inappropriate to assess the credibility of the conduct of the election on the number of petitions filed by litigants.

Olumekun, who was reacting to a media report, that INEC’s credibility had sank so low as 94 per cent of contested posts awaits tribunal, said the report contains inaccurate figures, as well as a mix up of pre-election and post- election cases. He argued that the grounds for challenging the outcome of an election as provided in Section 134 of the Electoral Act, 2022 were not limited to the conduct of election.

“An election may be questioned on the ground that the winner of the election was not qualified to contest the election by virtue of his academic qualifications, age etc. “Many of the petitioners did not challenge the conduct of the elections by INEC but the eligibility of candidates or their nominated by political parties. “Under the law, INEC has no power to screen candidates.

Similarly, only the courts can disqualify candidates,” Olumekun stated. The National Commissioner admitted that the number of election petitions in the last three electoral cycles had been on the increase, but said it was not so in the number of upturned elections. According to him, out of 663 cases filed at the tribunals in 2015, 87 (or 13.1 per cent) were nullified and INEC ordered to conduct re- run in some polling units or entire constituencies.

He disclosed that out of the 807 petitions filed in 2019, the commission was ordered to conduct re-run elections in only 30 (3.71 per cent) constituencies, comprising three senatorial districts, 13 Federal constituencies and 14 state constituencies. Olumekun stated that as at October 16 this year, out of 82 governorship election petitions challenging the conduct of the 2023 elections, 72 (or 87.8 per cent) were either dismissed or withdrawn by the petitioners.

“For senatorial elections, 146 petitions were filed out of which 100 (68.5%) were dismissed or withdrawn. “For the House of Representatives, 413 petitions were filed out of which 309 (74.81%) were dismissed or withdrawn while for state Houses of Assembly, 550 petitions were filed out of which 468 (82.4%) were dismissed or withdrawn,” he said. Olumekun stated that out of 1,196 petitions, 712 were dismissed and 179 withdrawn.

“This means that in 891 cases (74.4 per cent), the tribunals found no merit in the petitions and affirmed the result of the elections conducted by INEC. “It is surprising how the mere filing of petitions constitute a blot on the integrity of the recent elections conducted by INEC when in fact they constitute an integral part of the democratic process,” he said. The National Commissioner also faulted the news report, which claimed that 94 percent of the petitions were of elective petitions, contending that “multiple petitions were filed by candidates and political parties as petitioners in a single constituenctioned.

“For example, in one state in the South South geopolitical zone of the country, eight petitions were filed challenging the governorship election out of which seven were dismissed and one withdrawn. “Therefore, the number of election petitions filed in respect of all elective offices will certainly outnumber the total number of constituencies and elective offices.

“To spread them across the constituencies and proceed to calculate the percentage is to count some constituencies several times which is methodologically problematic and statistically illogical,” he further argued. He noted that the pre-election cases arising from the conduct of primary elections by political parties, were not caused by INEC, but as a result of intra-party cases involving party members in which they joined the commission. According to him, it is common knowledge that INEC does not conduct primaries for political parties.

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