The Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to electronically upload the results of the March 11, 2023, Governorship and House of Assembly elections in Lagos State, directly to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) from the polling units.
Justice Peter Lifu made the order while delivering judgment in a suit filed by the Labour Party (LP) and 41 others, seeking 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 contrary to INEC’s argument, the court had jurisdiction to entertain the suit because it was commenced in accordance with the provisions of the law.
Justice Lifu also held that the subject matter of the suit was not a pre-election issue, as argued by INEC because the reliefs sought by the applicants dealt with the preparation of the elections and not the conduct of the elections.
He reasoned that all the applicants were trying to do was to compel the electoral body to comply with the Constitution, its regulations and guidelines following its failure to do so during the Presidential and National Assembly elections held on February 25, 2023.
The court granted the applicants an order of mandamus directing and compelling the defendant and all its agents 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:
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.”
Justice Lifu 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.”
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.
They also stated that after seeing the pattern of the defendant on 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 had allegedly colluded with All Progressives Congress 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 further claimed that they had “suffered damages due to the Defendant’s breach of Statutory Duty and will suffer more damages on 11 March 2023 except the Court grants this reliefs’”.
The electoral body challenged the jurisdiction of the Court to hear the matter, arguing that the Plaintiffs failed to disclose any cause of action to warrant the exercise of the court’s discretion in their favour.
INEC also argued that the suit was premature and speculative and that it would serve the interest of justice to strike it out and or dismiss this action.
The Commission also stated, through its counsel, Mrs Jecinta Kelechi-Ukaonu, that it was a law-abiding organisation and that it was doing its best to fulfil all its obligations under the law.
Kelechi-Ukaonu also told the court that the applicants had not demanded compliance with the laws and were refused before running to court.
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She maintained that INEC had explained to Nigerians the issues that caused the glitches experienced on February 25 and that it has reassured all stakeholders that it is working hard to fix them.