LP Challenges INEC’s Power to Determine Polls Timetable

No Comments » October 10th, 2010 posted by // Categories: Elections 2011



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LP Challenges INEC’s Power to Determine Polls Timetable

From Tobi Soniyi in Abuja, 10.10.2010

Labour Party has dragged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to a Federal High Court in Abuja seeking an order to stop it from conducting the 2011 general elections in the order it has set out in its timetable as provided for in the 2010 Electoral Act.

The Electoral Act is currently undergoing a review at the National Assembly following demands by INEC for time extension to enable it complete all electoral processes necessary for the conduct of credible elections.

The party said the order of the election as contained in  Section 25 (1) of the Act and which INEC relied on to fix the categories of election was inconsistent with section 40 of the 1999 constitution which guarantees freedom of association.

The party argued that the order of elections as released by INEC was a violation of the right of Nigerians to freely belong to any political party of their choice for the protection of their interest.

According to the party,  section 25 (1) of the Electoral Act would deny Nigerians the right guarantee by the constitution as the order of the election would create a bandwagon effect in that once the president emerged, voters would  tilt towards the president’s party to the detriment of the remaining 62 registered parties.

In the suit filed by its counsel, Chief Chukwuma Ekomaru, SAN, against INEC and with the Attorney General of the Federation joined as a co-defendant, Labour Party said should INEC be allowed to go ahead with the election in the order it had set out in the timetable, it would create a band wagon effect of making Nigerians to vote for a winning party, independent of the exercise of their will.

In the time table earlier released by INEC but which had been suspended due to time extension amendment being worked out by the Constitution Review Committee, the Commission had indicated that National Assembly would be held  first on January 15, followed by Presidential Election on January 22 and State Assemblies and Governors’ elections on January 29, 2011.
However, Labour Party would like INEC to start  the elections from the State Assemblies and Governors, to be followed by the National Assembly elections and the Presidential election coming last.

The party further argued that by enacting  section 25, which dictates  how INEC should carry out its constitutional responsibility of conducting elections, the legislature had encroached or usurped the executive function contrary to  the principles of separation of power.

Last week, a Federal High Court in Lagos, had while ruling in a suit filed by former President of the Nigerian Bar association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba on whether the President needs to assent the Constitution or not, ordered the National Assembly to halt further proceedings on the amendment to the Constitution pending the determination of the suit.

The lawmakers had also responded that no court could stop them from the fresh amendment to the constitution and the Electoral Act, vowing to go ahead so that INEC could have enough  time to plan with.

Among other reliefs, Labour Party is seeking a declaration that “in view of the combined effects of sections 221, 222 and 223 of the 1999 Constitution, which among other things prescribed that  political parties should exist on democratic principle and should reflect the federal character to endure order, peace and good government of Nigeria, section 25 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2011 is unconstitutional, undemocratic, oppressive, null and void as it has cumulative bandwagon effect of ultimately making Nigeria a one Party state.”

It also sought an order directing  INEC to reorder the 2011 elections in the order such as State House of Assemblies and governorship; House of Reps and Senatorial elections and finally, the Presidential election.

In a-21- paragraph affidavit filed in support of the originating summons and deposed to by the Party National Chairman, Chief Dan Nwayanwu, the party said that the majority in the National Assembly, State governors and the President belonged to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and could therefore influence the making of laws to suit their selfish purpose of remaining in power in Nigeria in perpetuity.

Nwayanwu said,  “I know that section 25 of the Electoral Act 2010, is inherently oppressive, unconstitutional, and cannot promote order, peace, and good government in Nigeria.

“That from my experience as a politician in Nigeria, I know as a fact that once the president-elect emerges, the remaining elections are voted in line with the party that won the Presidential election.

“That the party that wins a presidential election has a bandwagon effect on the remaining elections as no state or local government will like to be outside the ruling party.

“That if section 25 of the Electoral Act is allowed to stand, there will be bandwagon effect created by the presidential election, which will eventually make Nigeria a one party state.

“That the intention of having many political parties in Nigeria as guaranteed by the Section 40 of the Constitution is to promote freedom of association and to ensure that political parties exist to protect the interest of citizens of Nigeria.

“That it has become very urgent that the court make a pronouncement on the illegality of the Section 25 of the Electoral Act, in view of the inherent problems that will surely arise from the stipulations of the section and unless the court intervenes the section will deal a heavy blow on all other political parties in Nigeria except the party that wins the Presidential election.”  The case has not been fixed for hearing.

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