March 15, 2023

Lawyer sues INEC over alleged failure to electronically transmit election results

….seeks nullification of presidential, NASS elections

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Abuja

A legal practitioner, Mr. Bob James, on Wednesday, instituted an action against the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, over its alleged failure to electronically transmit results of the Presidential and National Assembly elections that held on February 25, from polling units to its IReV portal.

The plaintiff, in the suit he lodged before the Federal High Court in Abuja, cited INEC and the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, as defendants.

In the sole issue he set out for the court to determine, the plaintiff argued that the electoral body had a statutory duty to upload electronically on its portal, results of the Presidential and National Assembly elections “immediately” elections ended at every polling unit across the country.

Placing reliance on Section 60 of the Electoral Act 2022 and section 38 (1) of INEC’s Regulations, the lawyer prayed the court to determine whether the “failure or refusal to upload the results from each polling unit on the day of the election to the INEC IRev portal”, does not nullify the polls.

He urged the court to declare that INEC was under statutory obligation by virtue of the Electoral Act and its own guidelines to upload results from each polling station “immediately after counting and recording on Form EC 8A on election day.”

The plaintiff asked the court to hold that INEC’s failure to upload the results was a violation of its own guidelines for the conduct of the 2023 general elections.

As well as to make “a declaration that the presidential election held by the 1st respondent (INEC) on 25 February, 2023, is null and void and of no effect whatsoever, the result of same not having been declared in accordance with the law”.

In an affidavit he deposed to in support of the suit, the plaintiff averred that as a legal practitioner, he has an obligation to ensure that public institutions “entrusted with constitutional powers to conduct elections, do so strictly in compliance with the law.”

He contended that more than 90 per cent of results of the elections that held on February 25, were not uploaded on INEC IRev portal as at 12 midnight on the day of the polls.

The plaintiff told the court that paragraph 38 of INEC regulations and guidelines for the conduct of the 2023 elections, specifically mandated an electoral presiding officer to “use the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) machine to upload a scanned copy of the EC8A (election result paper) to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) as prescribed by the commission.”

He argued that the use of the word “shall” in the section of the regulation he cited, puts a statutory responsibility on INEC to electronically transmit the election results from every polling station in Nigeria to its portal.

He drew attention of the court to a subsisting judgement of the Supreme Court that was delivered by a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, where the apex court held that; “where a law prescribes the procedure to be followed in the performance of an act and that procedure is not complied with, the performance of the act in the circumstance becomes a nullity”.

Meanwhile, no date has been fixed for the suit to be heard.