2023 Elections: INEC ‘danced naked in the market’ – Appeal Court slams electoral body

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja berated the Independent National Electoral Commissioner, INEC, while accusing it of being partisan.

The appellate court, on Friday, slammed the Commission for appearing before it to act in favour of a party in an election dispute, by disowning documents that it not only issued, but also duly certified.

The court lamented that the electoral body has continued to “dance naked in the market”, even though it was meant to assume a neutral stand in election litigations.

“The INEC, as an institution, should be reminded of its role in an election; to be an unbiased umpire between parties. It should stop behaving irresponsibly, bearing in mind that its duty to conduct elections has a direct bearing on the peace and well-being of the country.

“The role of INEC in election dispute should be limited to the tendering of all the documents used in an election and explaining what they were used for and how they were obtained. The Commission should stop dancing naked in the market, pretending that no one is seeing its nakedness and its dancing steps”, the court stated, while delivering judgement in a Bauchi State House of Assembly election appeal.

The lead judgement of a three-member panel of the court was delivered by Justice K. I. Amadi.

The panel, in its unanimous decision, nullified the election of the Speaker of the Bauchi State House of Assembly, Abubakar Suleiman, who was earlier declared the winner of Ningi Central Constituency in the state, by INEC. The court held that evidence before it established that the election was inconclusive.

Aside from voiding the Certificate of Return that was issued to Suleiman who contested on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), the appellate court directed INEC to conduct a supplementary poll in 10 polling units in the state, within 90 days. The court further awarded a cost of N500, 000 against INEC.

The judgement followed an appeal that was brought before the court by the candidate of the All-Progressives Congress, (APC), Khalid Abdulmalik-Ningi.

Recall that INEC had declared that Suleiman, of the PDP, polled a total of 16, 866 votes to defeat his closest rival, Abdulmalik-Ningi of the APC, who scored 15, 065 votes in the election that was held on March 18. However, dissatisfied with the outcome of the election, the APC candidate lodged a petition before the State Assembly Election Petition Tribunal.

The petitioner, among other things, alleged that results of the election were cancelled due to over-voting or corrupt practices. INEC, a Respondent in the matter, denied the claim that there was over-voting, but failed to produce any witness before the tribunal. Yet, the tribunal dismissed the petition.

The Appeal Court faulted the decision of tribunal and noted that the Appellant brought nine witnesses, who testified in respect of the various polling units, and also tendered certified copies of INEC documents to support his case.

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