The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has given reasons behind the high number of pre-election litigations before the 2023 polls.
INEC Director, Legal Drafting and Clearance, Mrs Oluwatoyin Babalola, said this in a presentation at a two-day capacity workshop for journalists in Akwanga Nasarawa State.
The presentation was titled, ‘Effects of Litigation on INEC’s Preparations for Kogi, Imo, And Bayelsa Governorship Election.’
According to Babalola, the commission faced more than 1,000 pre-election litigations due to factors such as primaries conducted by political parties, substitution of candidates, and failure of parties to adhere to their constitution and timetable for the conduct of the election.
She claimed that the majority of the instances resulted from political parties failing to follow their own rules and constitutions due to a lack of internal party democracy.
Babalola said that the special circumstances surrounding pre-election issues could not be disregarded because decisions in that area may have a detrimental effect on the preparation, organisation, financing, and confidence of participants in the election.
She said that those judgments were sometimes delivered on the eve of the election, thereby prohibiting INEC from conducting elections for certain positions, replacing candidates after the printing of ballot papers, etc.
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This, according to her, in turn, affected logistics and caused an eventual colossal waste of resources.
“Beyond the impact of pre-election matters on preparation for the election, the commission is sometimes ordered to withdraw the certificate of return issued to a candidate who emerged winner and issue a fresh certificate of return to a judgment creditor.
“After the 2019 general elections, the commission was ordered to issue 94 certificates of return in pre-election matters.”
She stated other impacts of litigation on the preparation for the three governorship elections to include, the uncertainty of candidates and parties participating in the election.
Others were colossal waste of public funds and resources, waste of manpower; and tendency to create confusion among the media and electorate.
To reduce pre-election cases and their impact on the electoral process, Babalola suggested adherence by political parties to the principles of internal party democracy.
“Proposal for Constitutional amendment to reduce the timelines for hearing and determination of pre-election matters.
“Proposal for a variant of the provision of Section 138 of the Electoral Act, to the effect that persons elected shall remain in office until the final determination of any appeal in pre-election matters except where there is no appeal against the decision of the trial court.
“Amendments to the Electoral Act, 2022 to accommodate new developments in the electoral process.
“More training and collaboration with the judiciary on the commission’s processes,” she said.