According to reports I have just received from the Ondo State branch of the People’s Redemption Party (PRP), the Chairman of the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC), Ondo State, Prof. Olugbenga IGE on 18th February 2016 told representatives of the PRP at a meeting that the PRP could not be allowed to contest any election for now pursuant to a letter he received from the INEC stating that INEC would appeal the judgment of the Federal High Court which declared the deregistration of PRP and two other political parties unconstitutional and ordered INEC to restore the status of the PRP as a registered political party.
From the standpoint of the PRP, both INEC and SIEC, Ondo State have disobeyed the Judgment of the Federal High Court, which has been duly served on these two bodies, which are also creations of the Constitution under Sections 153(1)(f) and 197 (1)(b).
As far as the intended plan of INEC to appeal the judgment of the Federal High Court is concerned, INEC and SIEC ought to know that by virtue of Section 287(3) of the 1999 Constitution, the Orders of the Federal High Court are binding on them until set aside by the Court of Appeal. The INEC’s intention to appeal is therefore no valid reason for the SIEC, Ondo State or any other person or body, not to obey the said court Orders.
It is also important for INEC and SIEC, Ondo State to note that the Supreme Court has held that appeals against court orders by the electoral umpire show elements of bias and failure of neutrality by the electoral umpire in the electoral process.
The holding of the Supreme Court in Attorney-General of the Federation & ors v. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar & ors 32 NSCQR 1 at pp. 174-175 is perhaps apposite for both the Chairman of INEC and the Chairman of SIEC, Ondo State. In the said case, the Supreme Court, per Aderemi, J. held that:
“The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by its statutory existence is an independent body with constitutional powers to conduct elections in Nigeria. It must not only be an umpire, it must be seen, in the eyes of reasonable men, to be an impartial umpire in the conduct of an election. INEC must never by acts of omission or commission place itself in a position where imputation of partiality in favour of one party against another one will be leveled against it. Neutrality must be the watch word – it must always remain fair and focused. … A situation where both the Inspector General of Police and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC APPEAL in the instant case is very much in bad taste. They have both thrown the quality of impartiality and fairness which they must possess to the winds. Their acts are capable of eroding the public confidence in them. Unknown to them, they may be said, by the public, to be biased and therefore not worthy to be regarded as impartial umpires. This trend must not repeat itself for the good of the nation. It is sour taste.
If President Buhari and Governor Mimiko are convinced that the INEC Chairman and the SIEC Chairman have not been instructed by the Executive arms of Government to disobey Court Orders, then, I call on President Mohammadu Buhari and Governor Olusegun Mimiko to invoke sections 157 (1) and 201 (1) respectively, and get the Chairman of INEC and the Chairman of SIEC, Ondo State, removed from office on account of contemptuous disobedience of court orders. These two public officers have clearly shown that the Nigerian people cannot rely on them to conduct any free and fair election.
While the PRP would take necessary steps under the law to compel INEC and SIEC to obey the Judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja Judicial Division, we call on Nigerians to note that the INEC under the APC Federal Government and the SIEC in Ondo State are endangering Nigeria’s democracy.
There can be no credible democracy without credible elections. There can be no credible elections without a genuinely independent, non-aligned electoral umpire which is supposed to be subject to no higher authority other than the proclamations by an independent judiciary. There is a relationship between the integrity of elections and the integrity of the nation’s electoral umpire. An electoral umpire that lacks credibility and disobeys court orders cannot be expected to conduct free and fair elections.
No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a choice in the election of those who rule (individuals and parties) at the levels of the legislature and the executive. The right to vote includes the right of the people to have an opportunity to make a choice among political parties. When certain political parties are unconstitutionally excluded from the electoral process, contrary to clear orders of courts of competent jurisdiction, there is a denial of the right to vote, which is tantamount to a violent coup against the Constitution of Nigeria, which in Section 1 sub section (2) establishes the right to vote as the foundation of a political regime based on democratic elections and prescribes that:
“1. (2) The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any persons or group of persons take control of the Government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.”
With the continued disobedience of court orders by INEC and Ondo State SIEC, Nigeria’s democracy is indeed imperiled unless the incumbent officers are removed in accordance with constitutional provisions, to protect the integrity of the courts and the electoral umpire.
Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa
25 February, 2016