INEC expresses concern over forum shopping by politicians

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has expressed concern over the wave of court-to-court forum purchases by politicians ahead of the elections, saying the situation poses a serious threat to the 2023 general election. .

National Commissioner and Chairman of the Electoral Arbitrator’s Voter Information and Education Committee Festus Okoye, who said this yesterday during an intervention on the LEADERSHIP Podcast live show, ‘Inside Nigeria ‘, denounced the situation in which politicians tend to abuse the geographical jurisdiction of a tribunal.

The nation’s electorate, however, called on the leaders of the judiciary to intervene to end the practices, although it noted that such interventions would bring reason to the judiciary.

Forum shopping is a colloquial term for the practice of litigants moving from court to court in order to have their case heard in the court considered most likely to provide a favorable judgment.

Okoye, who also called on the leaders of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to intervene, said: “We now have a recurring situation where people tend to abuse the geographic jurisdiction of the tribunal by approaching a court. court over which it has no jurisdiction. So this is the challenge we face as a committee. Candidates are now embarking on shopping on the forum.

“Our colleagues in the legal profession are the ones who advise politicians on what to do and who bring justice into disrepute. We cannot postpone this until the general election of 2023. If we continue with what happens in the election of Anambra until the elections of 2023, it will be very disastrous for our democracy, and it can lead to a situation where there may be a collapse of the law in many states of the federation, if not all ”.

Okoye said people should be determinants of the electoral process and not the tribunal, however noting that the tribunal does not activate itself.

“If people don’t go to them, they don’t go to people either. So it’s when people activate them that they help settle a dispute, ”he added.

The INEC commissioner pointed out that when there is a different issue in court other than pre-election issues, it creates its own challenges.

“The jurisdiction of the tribunal is clearly defined. I believe that the judiciary is the guide of our democracy. We will have more power in a situation where only those who win elections by ballot take office.

“From time to time, we have a situation where our members go too far and give the impression that the power to access political office now belongs to the judiciary,” he noted.

Regarding electronic voting, he said the committee had tested different solutions regarding the transmission of results, adding that INEC is convinced that it has the capacity and the willingness to transmit the results electronically.

He said that for a few areas where there are blind spot issues, the commission consults with service providers and they assured that this was something that could be easily addressed.

He said: “People are also afraid that the commission will create a portal where all the results will be stored. The point is that our election is done step by step where it goes to the regional collation center, the local government collation center, and if it is a state assembly, the returning officer will collate and will report. If it is a senatorial election, it moves to the senatorial district where the returning officers of the senatorial districts will collate and write a report.

“So if our people understand the trajectory, then that gap between the voting unit and the first level of collation is bridged because that’s where all the faults and all the challenges take place. We want to make sure the people’s vote counts. ”

He added that the commission does not want to deprive any Nigerian of the right to vote, no matter where they are, adding that INEC wants the people’s vote to decide who will be elected.

Speaking further, he said that the National Assembly has two chambers, the National Assembly and the Senate, adding that the Senate passes a different version of the bill amending the electoral law and the House of Representatives passes a other version.

He said each house would appoint its members and then proceed to the conference committee where they would harmonize the bill.

“It is after the harmonization that it will be transmitted to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for assent. For now, the law in force remains the 2010 electoral law as amended, ” he added.

Regarding the Anambra elections scheduled for November 6, he said the commission released the list of candidates based on the party’s changes to candidates who recently joined the race and also court orders.

On why the PDP’s place is vacant on the list, he said the political party published Valentine Ozigbo’s name and that a court order ordered the PDP as a party to submit the name of another person on the committee as a party candidate.

“However, the Court of Appeal also issued an expedited hearing order in the case involving the PDP and ordered that the commission not publish the name of any candidate pending the appeal hearing before court of Appeal.

“So it is possible that by the time we publish the final list of candidates for Anambra’s election, the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court would have solved the challenges of the PDP but, if not the case, we will just leave the space for The PDP as a political party on the blank ballot without the names of the candidates, so if it is resolved, we will add the name, ”he explained.

Regarding the crisis in the preparation for Anambra elections, he said that there was nothing wrong for a person or a political party to go to court for a judicial interpretation or a judicial resolution of a special case.

He said it is the hallmark of the democratic system rather than individuals taking the laws into their own hands while inflating their grievances.

Okoye continued, “Second, political parties have both a constitutional and a legal existence. The law allows them to have an internal mechanism to settle their dispute.

“But when a political party wants to cut corners, or its members want to take control of the laws, they run into this kind of deadlock they have.

“Article 87 of the 2010 electoral law as amended requires parties to organize free, fair and credible primaries and to submit only the names of the candidate who obtains the most votes as the party’s candidate. But if a party refuses to organize free and fair primaries, it faces this type of challenge. “

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