Despite criticism, president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Yakubu Maikyua, has defended his position on the February 25 presidential and National Assembly election.
Justifying his position that the election was credible, Maikyua said the impact of lapses and challenges recorded during the polls after pronouncement of results can now only be determined by the courts.
He acknowledged that there were challenges experienced by the electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) during the last poll, but insisted that since the election results had been declared, it was now left for the court to identify and pronounce the impact of the lapses.
In a statement yesterday, addressed to members of the bar, the NBA president urged INEC to identify issues from the February 25 election and the lessons drawn therefrom, with a view to addressing same in Saturday’s governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections.
Maikyua also called on INEC to ensure that election materials are dispatched on time to the Polling Units so that the accreditation process will commence early.
According to him, this will ensure that registered voters are given opportunity to exercise their right to vote without being unduly disenfranchised.
He further urged INEC to ensure that all bugs or glitches in the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines and other election technology are fixed and improved ahead of Saturday.
Meanwhile, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the presidential election, Atiku Abubakar, has withdrawn his application for court’s permission to observe the reconfiguration of BVAS machines by INEC.
The Court of Appeal in Abuja, which is the Presidential Election Petition Court, had on March 8, permitted INEC to go ahead with the reconfiguration of the BVAS used in the conduct of the February 25 poll.
The appellate court, led by Justice Joseph Ikyegh, cleared the coast for INEC to reconfigure the BVAS machines to be deployed in the rescheduled March 18 governorship and state Assemblies elections, following assurances that the BVAS information on the presidential polls will be safely stored in an accredited backend Server.
INEC had approached the court to vary its earlier order permitting Atiku and the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, to inspect election materials including the BVAS machines used for the presidential election. They had anchored the request on the grounds that the same BVAS machines will be deployed in the governorship and state Assemblies election, adding that unless the court’s order is varied to enable the reconfiguration, the elections would not go as earlier scheduled.
Shortly after the permission was granted, INEC had announced a shift of the governorship and state Assemblies polls from March 11 to March 18, due to the reconfiguration of the BVAS machines.
Atiku and his party, the PDP, had in a motion on notice filed on March 13 and marked CA/PEC/13m/2023, requested permission from the appellate court to observe the reconfiguration of the BVAS machines. They had also filed another motion ex-parte praying for an order to serve court documents on the All Progressives Congress (APC) and winner of the presidential election, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, by substituted means.
However, when the matter was called yesterday, a lawyer who represented Atiku and the PDP, Ifeanyi Iboko, drew the appellate court’s attention to a notice of discontinuance filed in respect of the two cases.
Iboko explained that the discontinuation was predicated on facts that the two motions have been rendered obsolete by recent events.
Following the withdrawal and non-opposition by the respondents, the appellate court subsequently dismissed the two motions.
The withdrawal notwithstanding, Atiku has vowed to ensure that the alleged fraud perpetrated by INEC will be reversed as he vowed to head to court to protest the result and reclaim his mandate in due course.
In a video circulated by his media aide, Paul Ibe, yesterday, Atiku said: “I thank you immensely for your high sense of patriotism in bracing the myriads of odds to perform your civic duty during the February 25 presidential election. I truly appreciate your resilience, tenacity, and courage.
“As attested to by both local and international observers, the result of the February 25 presidential election, as announced by INEC, was grossly tainted and did not reflect the will of the electorate. You all have demonstrated against this blatant injustice through different mediums. And for that, I thank you again for your non-violent conduct despite the provocations.
“Indeed, what INEC did in announcing the manipulated result was a clear breach of not only the 2022 Electoral Act, but also its own guidelines, which the electoral commission had repeatedly claimed would uphold the standards we had seen in the Osun and Ekiti elections. The INEC chairman further ignored calls for a review of the process in line with the amended law.
“My fellow citizens, all hope is not lost. You must never give in to apathy. I assure you that the electoral fraud perpetrated by INEC will be reversed in due course as I champion the cause to reclaim our mandate.”
ALSO, a lawyer, Bob James, has dragged INEC to court for refusing to electronically transmit results of the presidential and National Assembly election from Polling Units onto its IReV portal.
In the suit filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday, the plaintiff listed INEC and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, as defendants.
Setting out the sole issue for the court’s determination, James said INEC was under “statutory duty to upload electronically on its portal the results of the presidential and National Assembly elections immediately from every polling station across Nigeria.”
Citing Section 60 of the Electoral Act 2022 and Section 38 (1) of INEC regulations, the plaintiff urged the court to determine whether the electoral umpire’s “failure or refusal to upload the results from each polling unit on the day of the election to the INEC IReV portal” does not nullify the poll.
The plaintiff urged the court to declare that INEC was under statutory obligation by virtue of the Electoral Act and its own guidelines to upload results from each polling station “immediately after counting and recording on Form EC8A on election day.”
James prayed the court to hold that INEC’s failure to upload the results was a violation of its own guidelines for the conduct of the 2023 general elections.
He contended that more than 90 per cent of the 25 February election results were not uploaded on INEC IReV portal as at 12midnight on the day of the polls.
Meanwhile, the suit is yet to be assigned to a judge for hearing.