The Judiciary has been described as the last hope of the common man in the sense that as final arbiters in disputes, justice is expected to be served in good conscience and truth.
The Judiciary is expected to play a vital and complimentary role to INEC in realising free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria. This will in turn strengthen and improve the electoral process across its value chain.
The Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA) an accredited Domestic Observer Group is disturbed by some of the pronouncements by the Judiciary especially, cases emanating from the 2019 General Elections.
According to official data from INEC, Imo State has 3,523 polling units, 823,743 accredited voters, 714,355 valid votes were cast at the 2019 governorship election, rejected votes were 25,130 and total votes cast were 739,485. The difference between the total number of accredited voters and total votes cast is 84,258. This includes cancelled votes and those areas where smartcard readers were not used. The questions begging for answer is where did the APC Candidate get the extra votes to make him governor? So, the results from the 388 polling units alleged to have been excluded had only results for APC while the other Political parties scored zero? What happened to their votes? Where did the Judiciary bring the 213,295 votes that were added to the 96,458 votes declared by INEC given the APC candidate a total vote of 309,753? How come someone was declared winner in an election where the “eventual” votes cast is higher than accredited voters? With the additional votes of 213,295 to the 739,485 votes, then the voters would be at least 952,780! This calls for concern.
It is in the public domain that 70 candidates contested in the last governorship election in Imo state. Curiously, out of the 70 candidates that contested in the election on 9th March 2019 only the APC candidate has a different result.
A judgement like this lays a dangerous precedence to our electoral system in the country; it therefore means that, anybody can write his or her own result and tender it in court to get a judgement.
We observe that despite the perceived will and commitment of the leadership of the Election Management Body to sustain and keep improving the electoral process in the country, many problems still plague the Commission which hampers the effective discharge of her duties among which is some of the judgements from all levels of Courts in Nigeria. In addition to this menace is the dangerous desperation of the political class which engenders violence and all sorts of malfeasance during elections. It is now clear that our electoral problems are compounded by the Judiciary, the security agencies and desperate politicians.
Politicians have also resorted to a new type of contrived obstruction of the wheel of electoral progress by forging results and returning themselves in elections dubiously.
CTA is concerned that Imo State has become a Guinea Pig to test run political and judicial malfeasance. The case of late Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu of Imo North Senatorial District comes to mind whom INEC alleged used a 2015 result sheet to fraudulently return himself as a Senator Elect in 2019 and was ordered to be sworn in by the Court when INEC insisted on not issuing him with certificate of Return. The court also stopped INEC from releasing and making public the report of the panel it set up to investigate the matter. What was the Court hiding? It is on record that the Returning Officer for Imo West Senatorial District on public television said he was returning Senator Rochas Okorocha under duress for fear of his life and his entire family, yet the Courts saw nothing wrong and ordered INEC to issue Okorocha with a Certificate of Return and subsequently, Okorocha was sworn in as a Senator of the Federal Republic.
The Judiciary as the last hope of the common man must live up to its expectation and be above board in the sense that the Judiciary should not be seen as aiding electoral rascality and fraud. The level of desperation by the political class should not be rewarded by the Judiciary. This kind of behaviour should not be acceptable and the outcome of such elections should not be allowed to stand by the Judiciary and beneficiaries of such election malpractice should be punished.
A situation where an Electoral Umpire will organise and conduct an election but will not have a say in the outcome of the election should be addressed in future Electoral Reforms.
CTA, therefore, again calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to take electoral reforms as a priority so that we do not end up having desperate politicians who are desperate for power, writing their own results, being declared winners on such fraudulent results and validated by the courts.
Faith Nwadishi is the Executive Director, CTA