…..PEPTs decision that INEC can jettison its guideline is a huge setback for the credibility of Nigeria’s electoral system!
….. Demobilises popular enthusiasm and participation in Nigeria’s Elections as witnessed on February 25, 2023!
The United Action Front of Civil Society regrets the outcome of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT), which utterly falls short of the expectations of overwhelming majority of Nigerians and the international community, who are living witnesses to the heist perpetrated on February 25, 2023. It is indeed unfortunate that the judgement in its entirety boils down to mere rehearsal of judicial Technicalities in the face of clear violation of the electoral act and guidelines of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which remain sacrosanct and ought to have been so affirmed by the PEPT. It is however shocking that the judgement turned out a copious endorsement of electoral brigandage and clear breach of the electoral process because of which so much trust and resources were invested in the 2023 General Elections.
The United Action Front of Civil Society is therefore compelled to describe the judgement of PEPT as completely reactionary, a setback for popular democracy and a deliberate incentive for compromise by INEC for future electoral manipulation. We also note with dismay that the justices of the PEPT in the desperation to demonstrate their anger against those who had demanded justice with the ALL EYES ON JUDICIARY Campaign in the social media, and by so doing, the judges indulged in what came across as profound embellishment of Technicalities rather than making justice count, even if the petitions were to be dismissed. We are disappointed that their Lordships of PEPT threw the much-applauded innovation of electronic transmission of election results under the bus without considering the larger implication for the health of the electoral process of Nigeria in the future.
We wondered why a judgment that was delivered for close to 12 hours failed to make INEC accountable for deliberate refusal to transmit the results of the presidential polls conducted simultaneously with the polls for senate and house of representatives for which results were transmitted via the same device that INEC falsely claimed malfunctioned or experienced Glitches. The United Action Front of Civil Society considered it unfortunate that the Nigerian judiciary is increasingly being turned into a tool for validating and undermining the electoral process through legal technicalities that provide justification for deliberate infractions by electoral umpire as well as the criminality of political actors.
It should be asserted that PEPT through its judgement merely acquiesced to the wishes of the ruling elite to further shrink the political space by discouraging popular participation in the electoral process. PEPTs judgement unfortunately demobilises the enthusiasm of millions of Nigerians; mostly first-time voters, who braced the odds to actively participate in the presidential election of February 25, 2023, which INEC discredited by willfully reneging on a vital aspect of the guidelines. The implication of the judgement by the PEPT, especially on the issue of scoring 25 per cent of total votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory for a President to be validly elected is quite grave and leaves much to be desired as it further jeopardised the faith of the electorate in the judicial system. The danger that this judgement portends for popular democracy is monumental considering that Nigerians are most likely to be discouraged in participating in future elections precisely because justice appeared to been denied the electorate whose rights to votes were trampled, whose votes didn’t count having been molested, violently attacked and killed.
The United Action Front of Civil Society therefore rejects the judgement of the PEPT as it falls short of popular expectation, undeserving, retrogressive and mere elevation of judicial technicalities which is old-fashioned and a disservice to the very essence of Justice. We therefore wish to encourage the petitioners to be unrelenting in their resolve to further pursue the cause of justice at the supreme court in the overall interest of credible electoral system and democracy and not necessarily because of their aspiration to be declared winners of the elections.
Head, National Coordinating Centre,
United Action Front of Civil Society