The Neo Africana Centre has asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to stop constituting itself into a stumbling block at the Presidential Election Petitions Court but should, instead, act in ways and manners that can redeem its battered image. The Centre’s admonition came in the wake of complaints by the lawyers of the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, as well as those of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, to the effect that the commission has been blocking them from having full access to the electoral materials that they need to tender at the tribunal in support of their petitions.
The public policy think tank said that having mismanaged an election that would have been a watershed in Nigeria’s electoral history, INEC still has an opportunity to redeem its image by ensuring that it cooperates with all the parties concerned in the matter.
In a statement by its Director of Public Affairs, Jenkins Udu, the Centre called on INEC to stop playing the hide and seek game that it is currently playing at the tribunal. It equally charged the commission to shun the temptation of persevering in its grievous sins.
Part of the statement reads:
“We have noted with concern the recalcitrance and uncooperative attitude of the Independent National Electoral Commission on matters relating to the petitions filed at the Presidential Election Petitions Court by aggrieved parties.
The commission, from the outset, betrayed its biases and left no one in doubt that it would not allow those contesting the outcome of the presidential election it conducted to have their way. This open partisanship is most unbecoming of a public institution such as the electoral commission.
“We recall with regret that lawyers to the presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the February 25 presidential election, Mr Peter Obi, have severally complained of evident lack of cooperation by INEC in their bid to have access to relevant electoral materials in support of their petition. A few days ago, one of the lawyers to Peter Obi told the tribunal that INEC is yet to grant them full access to the BIVAS machines.
“The following day, the legal team of the Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, also had reason to complain to the tribunal about the uncooperative attitude of INEC, even after collecting a whopping N6.69 million from them. The Atiku team said it was unable to tender certain documents in court because INEC was yet to release those vital documents to them. The tribunal was forced to adjourn abruptly on account of this.
“These developments are worrisome. They portray INEC as partisan in a matter in which it ought to be neutral. Even though its integrity has seriously been called to question by the mess it made of our elections on February 25, the commission still has an opportunity to redeem its image from the barrage of condemnations flying all over Nigeria. Rather than constitute itself into a stumbling block, INEC should give the petitioners all the necessary access they deserve. It is within their right, and the commission owes them this basic obligation.
“It is bad enough that INEC messed up the 2023 general elections. It will be worse if the commission leaves the public with the impression that it is bent on frustrating genuine efforts at righting its own wrongs.”