The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to directly and electronically upload the results of the March 11, 2023 governorship and State House of Assembly elections in Lagos State from the polling units to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV).
Justice Peter Lifu granted the order while delivering judgment in a suit filed by the Labour Party and 41 others, in which they sought an order of Mandamus to compel INEC to obey the Electoral Act and its guidelines for the conduct of the elections.
The judge held that the court possessed the jurisdiction to entertain the suit because it was commenced in accordance with the provisions of the law.
He also held that the subject matter of the suit is not a pre-election issue because the reliefs sought by the applicants deal with the preparation of the elections and not the conduct of the elections.
He noted that all the applicants were trying to do is to compel the electoral body to comply with the Constitution, its regulations, and guidelines which it failed to do during the presidential and National Assembly elections held on February 25, 2023.
Through their lawyer, Abbas Ibrahim, the Labour Party, its governorship candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, and 40 others had told the court that some Presiding Officers complained of wrong passwords as the reason for not being able to upload their BVAS information. In contrast, some complained the BVAS gave an “error” sign anytime they tried to upload.
The applicants also stated that “after seeing the pattern of 25th and 26 of February” and through the period of collation of the presidential results in Abuja, the handwriting on the wall became clear that the defendant, INEC had colluded with the APC in Lagos State to steal the mandate of the good people of Lagos State and to deprive the applicants their rightful victory at their various wards. They argued that if the court does not grant the leave, the same vote manipulations would occur on the 11th of March 2023, during the governorship and House of Assemblies election in Lagos State.
But INEC through its counsel, Mrs Jacinta Kelechi-Ukaonu, had challenged the jurisdiction of the Court to hear the matter, stating that the plaintiffs had failed to disclose any cause of action to warrant the exercise of the court’s discretion in their favour.
INEC had also argued that the suit is premature and speculative and that it will serve the interest of justice to strike out and or dismiss the action.
The counsel submitted that INEC had explained to Nigerians the issues that caused the glitches experienced on February 25 and that it had reassured all stakeholders that it is working hard to fix them.
The Commission also stated that it is a law-abiding organisation doing its best to fulfill all its obligations under the law.
The court, therefore, granted the applicants order of mandamus, directing and compelling the defendant and all its agents and their privies or any persons acting under their directions to comply with and enforce the provision of clause 37 of the REGULATIONS AND GUIDELINES FOR THE CONDUCT OF ELECTIONS, 2022 for the conduct of the Governorship and House of Assembly elections in Lagos State on 11 March 2023 to wit: Mandating the Presiding Officer of all Polling Units to paste the Publication of Result Poster EC60(E) at the Polling Units conspicuously after completing the EC8A result sheet.
The judge also granted an order of mandamus directing and compelling the defendant and all its agents and their privies or any persons acting under their directions to comply with and enforce the provision of clause 38 of the REGULATIONS AND GUIDELINES FOR THE CONDUCT OF ELECTIONS, 2022 for the conduct of the Governorship and House of Assembly elections in Lagos State on 11 March 2023 to wit: mandating the presiding officer of all polling units to transmit or transfer the result of the polling units electronically, direct to the collation system and use the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) to upload a scanned copy of the EC8A to INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) immediately after the completion of all the polling units voting and results procedures.
He further granted an order directing and compelling the defendant to enforce the observance and compliance of Section 27(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 in the distribution of electoral materials during the conduct of the governorship and House of Assembly election in Lagos State on 11 March 2023 by engaging the services of independent, competent, and reliable logistic companies who are non-partisans or known supporters of any political for the distribution of electoral materials and personnel.