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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Reps to amend Electoral Law over inconclusive elections

The House of Representatives is set to amend the Electoral Act over spate of unconcluded elections in the 2019 general elections.

The House would set up a Committee to look into the issues leading to the declaration of inconclusive election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with the view of ascertaining areas to be amended in the Electoral Act.


This followed the adoption of a motion of urgent national importance by Sunday Karimi (PDP, Kogi) who said INEC does not possess the powers to declare elections inconclusive.


The lawmakers were in agreement that the trend of inconclusive elections should be urgently addressed.

The proponents of the motion said INEC lacked the powers to cancel votes at collation centers and should desist from elevating its election guidelines about the Constitution and the Electoral Act.

However, the House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila and those who spoke against the motion urged their colleagues to be mindful of the fact that INEC was empowered by law to declare elections inconclusive, an action backed by the pronouncement of the Supreme Court.

“Since the November 2015 gubernatorial election in Kogi State inconclusive elections has become a demon hunting the Nigerian electoral system, eroding the confidence of the electorate in the electoral system and has become a tool for subverting the will of the people during elections in Nigeria.

“Prior to the 2015 Gubernatorial Election in Kogi State, there were very few isolated cases of inconclusive and re-run elections in Nigeria, due to over-voting in some polling units and wards, and also due to non-voting in some words. This was the case in Ekiti State in 2009, Anambra in 2010 and Imo in 2011.

“The escalating trend of inconclusive elections has cast a shadow on the neutrality of INEC as an umpire in the Nigerian election process.

“The frequency of cases of inconclusive elections in Nigeria has created in the electorate lack of confidence in the election process.

“The apprehension and deprivation caused by the rising case of inconclusive elections in Nigeria is a potential security risk in the country.

He said he was aware that the Electoral Act in Section 153 gives the INEC power to make regulations, guidelines and manuals for the conduct of elections in Nigeria and as a result, the Commission issued the 2015 General Election Guidelines and the 2019 General Election Guidelines, as Subsidiary Legislation to the Electoral Act.

“The March 9 General Elections, out of the 29 gubernatorial elections conducted, five gubernatorial elections in Sokoto, Benue, Bauchi, Kano, Plateau and Adamawa States, elections were declared inconclusive despite leading candidates having met the provisions of Section 179(2) of the Constitution, thereby causing apprehension, insecurity and eroding the confidence of the electorate in the Commission.

“We are aware that as a result of the power of the Commission to issue guidelines, the INEC 2015 Guidelines in pages 22-23 paragraph 4, Section N, direct the Returning Officer to where the margin of win between the two leading candidates is not in excess of the total number of registered voters of the polling units where elections were cancelled or not held, decline to make a return until another poll has taken place in the affected polling units and results incorporated into a new form EC 8d and subsequently record in EC 8e for declaration.

“This provision of the Election Guideline which was reproduced in the 2019 Guidelines is the basis for which the Commission whimsically declares election inconclusive.

“It a source of concern that paragraph 4 of Section N of the 2015 General Election Guidelines is causing apprehension and lack of confidence in the nations electoral system, since Sections 134,179 and 111 of the Constitution provides for the emergence of the winner of Presidential, Gubernatorial and Area Council Elections in Nigeria.

“The Constitution provides that the winner of the Election into Chief Executives offices in Nigeria shall emerge where the winner has majority votes of the total votes cast, scores one quarter of votes cast in each of at least two third of the votes in all States, Local Government and Wards respectfully.

“Also, section 26(1) of the Electoral Act 2010 provides that where a date has been approved for the holding of an election and there is reason to believe that there will be serious breach of peace if the election is proceeded with that day, or that it is impossible to conduct the elections due to natural disaster or other emergencies, the Commission may postpone the election and fix a new date for the election.

“The combined effect of Section 134,179, 111 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999(as amended) and 26(1) as well as Section 53(2)&(3) of the Electoral Act shows that inconclusive elections is not envisaged in our laws, except where there was over-voting in a polling unit, not where votes already cast were cancelled.

“The Commission should not be allowed to continue to whimsically declare elections inconclusive”.

His prayer that INEC be told not to subvert the will of the people by resorting to the provisions of the Guidelines (relating to inconclusive elections) but to adhere to the Constitution and allow aggrieved parties to proceed to the relevant Election Tribunals in order to ensure peace and security and to promote the credibility of the electoral process, was rejected though.

Following the same argument against INEC, Aliyu Madaki (PDP, Kano) said declaration of inconclusive elections by the electoral body amounts to military rule dictatorship, which the people of Kano State would resist.

He said: “We are talking about the integrity of President Muhammadu Buhari – his integrity, if he has any, is being questioned seriously.

“If he is watching, he has been declared as a winner while the margin of victory is less than the number of canceled votes all over Nigeria but he has been declared winner and our candidates of PDP in six States of northern Nigerian have been declared as inconclusive.

“From information available to me, in the next two weeks when we are going for the election they will use every resource available and declare APC as winners in these elections. Let me sound a note of warning that we will not take it”.

Mohammed Soba (Kaduna) said INEC must be resisted on the inconclusive election if the law states that valid votes from polling units cannot be cancelled while it would rather act on its own guidelines

Henry Achibong (PDP, Akwa Ibom) wondered if INEC was ever independent, while suggesting that the electoral laws be reviewed.

Adamu Chika (Niger) also reiterated that elections cannot be cancelled at collation centers, adding that whoever is found culpable in the cancellation must be brought to book, “We must stop inconclusive elections,” he added.

Diri Douye (PDP, Bayelsa) urged his colleagues not to form opinions along party lines but to see themselves as Nigerians first, adding that electronic voting is the solution to electoral challenges facing the country.

Umar Barde (PDP, Kaduna) Deputy Minority Leader and Tajudeen Yusuf also spoke against INEC on the issue.

However, House Leader Gbajabiamila captured the arguments of Femi Adebanjo ((APC , Lagos), Idris Wase, Muhammad Monguno (APC, Borno), Babale Bashir (APC, Kano), among others that the issue at stake is not for the House to decide since the Supreme court has interpreted the law in previous election matter.

The opponents of the motion suggested that the parliament should rather look at how to amend the Electoral Act with a view of making inconclusive elections irrelevant to our electoral process.

Gbajabiamila said since everyone is concerned about the situation, all the lawmakers were in agreement with the trend only that the approach to the solution may differ.

“The debate today centered on the interpretation of the law but unfortunately, since we run a democracy, we are not empowered to interpret the law but that is what’s done here today.

“While inconclusive elections should be a thing of the past, how do we get there? It’s to get the electoral law amended within weeks.

“The Supreme court has already ruled on it when INEC used it’s guidelines to declare the 2015 Kogi gubernatorial election inconclusive by looking at all the processes.

“So, there’s a position already and the only solution is to amend the law and have Supreme Court change its interpretation.

“Even on cancellation of results, INEC is still empowered according to the Supreme Court, and that’s how Faleke lost his case.

“My advice is, let us tarry for a while and allow the arm of government that has the authority and the power to complete its job.

We must take a legislative approach through amendment to address all the areas of concern.

“Before now, the APC caucus discussed it yesterday (Tuesday) because it’s an important issue involving too many sSates,” he added.

The motion was unanimously adopted following the amendment to its prayers after a voice vote.

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