*Says ‘Level of conflicting judgments worrisome’
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, yesterday, berated the Judiciary, even as he described as worrisome, the level of conflicting judgments emanating from various divisions of the Court of Appeal in respect of the 2015 general elections.
Yakubu took a swipe at the Judiciary at an event attended by high-ranking Judges, including the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa.
He spoke at the opening ceremony of a National Conference on Election Petition Tribunals and Appeals, which was organised by the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
Yakubu said there was need for certainty in the laws governing the resolution of electoral conflicts, noting that some of the reasons given by courts on why some elections were annulled and re-run ordered, were highly disturbing.
He said: “There is need for certainty in the rules governing the resolution of electoral disputes. Judicial precedence is of immense importance, without which neither the judiciary nor INEC will be spared of impunity by political actors”.
Yakubu gave an instance where a particular division of the appellate court ordered INEC to conduct fresh election, “in which only the duly qualified candidates participated”, only for another division of the court, under similar circumstance, to nullify the election, disqualified the candidate and allowed the political party to submit the name of another candidate for a re-run poll.
“Yet in another division, the Court of Appeal nullified the election, ordered INEC to conduct fresh election, but remained silent about the status of the disqualified candidates, thereby giving room for endless commentary and new rounds of litigation on the eligibility of the disqualified candidate to participate in re-run elections.”
Nevertheless, he said the electoral body was committed to respect any Judicial pronouncement, until a higher court determined its legal propriety.
Besides, Yakubu disclosed that INEC at the end of the last general election, received a total of 680 cases filed at different election petition tribunals across the federation, by various political parties.
He said: “At the end of their sittings, about 580 cases were dismissed by the Tribunals and/or Courts of Appeal.”
The INEC boss decried that conducting re-run elections places a heavy financial burden on the commission.
He said there were instances where elections were nullified and INEC was ordered to conduct a re-run simply for the sake of conducting elections in a specific polling unit.
He said after wastage of time and resources, the outcome of such elections do not make any material difference to the original result that was declared by INEC in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act.
Meanwhile, President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Bulkachuwa, said the court received a total of 749 appeals that emanated from decisions of the various election petition tribunals.
She stressed that regardless of the exigency of time, the appellate court succeeded in disposing the appeals within the stipulated time-frame.
However, Justice Bulkachuwa kept silent on issues that were raised against the Judiciary by the INEC chairman.