The Independent National Electoral Commission must electronically transmit the results of the gubernatorial and House of Assembly elections on Saturday in accordance with the rules and directives of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which issued the ruling on Friday.
In a ruling, Judge Obiora Egwuatu also mandated the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System to send a scanned copy of the form EC8A to the INEC Result Viewing Portal as soon as all of Akwa Ibom’s polling units had completed voting.
After finalizing the EC8A result sheets for the state, the judge further instructed the commission to prominently paste the publication of its result posters, EC60(E), at polling places.
He also directed INEC to use the services of impartial, capable, and dependable logistic companies that are neither partisans nor well-known supporters of any political party in order to enforce the compliance with Section 27(1) of the Electoral Act, 2022 in the distribution of electoral materials and personnel during the conduct of the polls in the state.
According to Egwuatu, accepting the petitioners’ requests would not hurt the commission’s operation but instead energize it because the electoral umpire had said in its filed affidavit that it was cognizant of its legal obligations and had not disregarded them.
He made the ruling in response to a lawsuit brought by the Labour Party and Uduakobong Udoh, the party’s candidate for governor in Akwa Ibom, as well as 13 candidates for the state House of Assembly in the March 18 elections.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria, the applicants sued INEC as the only defendant in the originating summons marked FHC/ABJ/CS/334/2023, which was dated and submitted on March 15 by their attorney, Moses Usoh-Abia.
The petitioners, who asked the court for seven different reliefs, requested a mandamus order directing INEC and all of its representatives to adhere to and uphold the terms of Clause 37 of the Rules and Guidelines for the Conduct of the Saturday Elections in Akwa Ibom.
Additionally, they requested that the court order all polling unit presiding officers to prominently post the publication of result posters EC460(E) at the polling places after completing the EC8A result sheets.
They requested a mandamus order compelling the commission to require the presiding officers of every polling unit in the state to electronically transmit or transfer the polling unit results directly to the collation system and use the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System to upload a scanned copy of the EC8A to the INEC Result Viewing Portal as soon as all polling unit voting and result procedures were complete.
According to them, this complied with the requirements of Clause 38 of the election standards.
The applicants also requested a court order ordering INEC, among other relief, to enforce the compliance with Section 27(1) of the Electoral Act, 2022 in the distribution of electoral materials during the conduct of the elections by hiring the services of impartial, capable, and dependable logistic companies that are not known to be supporters of any political party.
In response to an ex-parte application made by Usoh-Abia, Judge Egwuatu reportedly gave the applicants permission to proceed with a judicial review on Wednesday, filed the necessary motion, and notified INEC.
Usoh-Abia stated that he had complied with the prior court decision and that their motion had been served on INEC the same Wednesday during the matter’s resumed hearing on Friday.
Despite having their process served, the attorney claimed that the commission was not represented in court.
The judge did note INEC’s counter-affidavit and a preliminary objection to their originating summons in the court file, he claimed.
The application, he claimed, was submitted on Thursday.
Usoh-Abia said that despite the fact that the commission had not yet served them, he was prepared to move forward with the case because of its urgency.
He claimed that the 26-paragraph affidavit and nine exhibits were included in the March 15 motion.
The attorney pleaded with the judge to order the electoral umpire to abide by the rules and directives of Clauses 37 and 38 regarding the conduct of the elections.
According to him, the commission’s failure to transmit the results of the elections in the state and across the nation on February 25 for the Presidential and National Assembly elections made the injunction essential.
As a result, the judge issued an order to INEC directing all of its presiding officers to abide by Clauses 37 and 38 of its regulations and guidelines for the conduct of the poll in Akwa Ibom tomorrow.
He said that the commission was legally required to follow the law.