By Chioma Gabriel, Deputy Editor
Worried by the ruling against INEC by the court on the Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines contract and the likely effect it could have on 2011 general elections, politicians and Nigerians of repute have warned that the judiciary should desist from anything that could scuttle the 2011 general elections by expediting action on the issue.
A Federal High Court in Abuja had last week ruled against the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, over the award of the Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines contract. Justice Ibrahim Auta in his ruling last week had issued an order restraining INEC from acquiring the machines while ruling in an ex parte application moved by Chief Assam Assam, SAN, who appeared with Mr. John Okoriko, Emeka Odoh and others in a suit filed by Bedding Holding Limited against INEC. The contracts for the supply of DDC machines was awarded to HAIER Electrical Appliances Corporation Limited; Zinox Technologies Limited and Avante International Technology Incorporated, all of which were listed as defendants.
INEC has however, expressed commitment to appeal against the judgement and ask the court to set aside the verdict pending the final determination of the suit .
But former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, ex-Speaker, Bello Masari, Senator Uche Chukwumerije, elder statesman Tanko Yaskassai and other reputable Nigerians have expressed dismay that a prolonged court case on the matter could affect the dateline of elections and advised that in as much as a court ruling should be obeyed, the judiciary should expedite action on the appeal to ensure that what happened in June 12 1993 presidential election whereby, a group used the court to truncate the transition programme does not repeat itself in the conduct of 2011 general elections or affect the dateline of elections.
General Yakubu Gowon, rtd.
We all know that when a judgement is given on a case by the courts, it must be adhered to. However, in a case of national interest when conduct of elections is involved, another court would be required to put aside the ruling of the Federal High Court Abuja so that it does not scuttle the elections or affect the time-table of elections as mapped out by INEC.
Ebenezer Babatope, politician
I want to appeal to the judiciary to be considering national interest before giving certain judgements. The kind of judgement given on DDC machines contract is capable of affecting the dateline of elections. That judgement is not good. But I hope that the appeal will be won by INEC so that when the machines are eventually brought in, they can be used because as things are, if the machines are brought in, they cannot be used for the elections.
Agunwa Anaekwe, ex-Speaker of House of Representatives
I think that due process should take its course. Judicial officers who are Nigerians must be patriotic enough to ensure that elections are not derailed. The judgement should be set aside and the judiciary should consider how the entire thing should impact on the nation to avoid any reason for derailing the election.
Senator Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa
Certainly, if there is a delay in resolving the matter in the courts, it could affect the elections . That means that the court should have considered the delay before giving the judgment. It would however be illegal and unconstitutional to proceed with importation of the machines now and that means everything should wait for the final judgement on the matter. Now, if that final judgement would take a long time and eat into the election time-table, INEC would be forced to produce a new time-table because of the machines.
Balarabe Musa, politician
Actually, it is not a question of DDC contract that Nigerians are battling with in the conduct of elections but the secrecy between the Presidency and the National Assembly in ensuring that elections don’t hold in April. The election process we need for 2011 election is still in limbo because of the dispute between the executive and the legislature. INEC does not have the environment it needs for conduct of the elections.
The time-table that INEC brought out is still subject to the law. And until we have the amended constitution and the amended electoral act, the election time-table is not constitutional. It is not DDC machines that is the problem. The process of the award of the contract was irregular and that made them to go to court.
It is not a question of DDC machines or contract but the conspiracy of the national assembly and the executive. The president wants the constitution amended so that his aides will vote as delegates in the primaries. The National Assembly members want automatic tickets to re-contest and become automatic members of the NEC of their parties. All these are the issues we should be worried about, and not the DDC machines which is the issue of contractors and the machines may not be necessary for the election anyway.
Bello Masari, ex-Speaker, House of Representatives
The court should expedite action on the issue. It has to rise up to the occasion because in this country, there is always the accusation that courts are being used to derail election. It is not healthy. The judiciary is always under serious suspicion and if you remember what happened in the presidential election of June 12 1993, a group then, Association For Better Nigeria, used the court to frustrate that transition. So, the judiciary should rise to the occasion and be cautions of what politicians can do especially in a situation like this.
Senator Fred Brume
The courts should expedite action on this issue. The judiciary should take a decision to resolve it early and I’m optimistic that the current development should be resolved. There have been several issues that have been swept away. This is a potential threat to the elections and should not be ignored or treated with levity. Nigeria owes it as a duty to resolve it as early as required before the election and it is for the courts to expedite action on this issue.
Senator Uche Chukwumerije, politician
Everything possible must be done to ensure that nothing derails the time-table for the elections. This requires the highest commitment of all concerned in resolving the issue. The whole nation supports INEC in its appeal. The judges are human beings, not spirits and they are Nigerians. They know that this issue is of utmost national interest. So, they should portray patriotism by expediting action on this issue because a consignment of the DDC machines has already arrived for the conduct of elections and must be used.
Yanko Yakassai, elder statesman
The ruling of the court is unfortunate but I believe the people in charge of the courts are Nigerians who would not want democracy to be truncated. I don’t think the court has given thought to the consequences of its action. But INEC should not only appeal against the judgement but request a stay of execution on the judgement given while the appeal is on because we cannot allow anything to scuttle the elections