Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is facing 1069 election law suits, Daily Asset has learnt.
This is as 109 political associations have applied for registration as political parties with INEC.
INEC National Commissioner, Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr. Festus Okoye who spoke at an electoral reform round-table organised by the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room and the Kofi Annan Foundation in Abuja on Thursday, revealed that currently, INEC is slammed with 1069 election lawsuits.
He said: “One of the biggest challenges facing the commission is the large number of pre-election matters that are still pending in various courts of law.
“As at today, the commission has a total of 809 pre-election matters while we have just 800 post-election matters, so the implication is that we have more pre-election matters than post-election.
“As at yesterday, the commission has withdrawn and reissued over 70 certificates of return that were previously issued to those who were elected into the various states and national assembly positions.
“There are more that we are still withdrawing and more that we are still re-issuing, some of these things arose from the not too transparent party primary elections that were conducted by the various political parties.
“It is really a source of concern that up till today, there are still a number of cases arising from pre-election matters in courts,” he said.
Okoye said one of the things the commission is looking at is whether the fourth alteration to the Constitution of Nigeria would properly address the issue of pre-election matters.
He said this is because the fourth alteration, gave the court of first instance a total of 180 days within which to determine cases and issues arising from pre-election matters.
“But 180 days from the period of the conduct of party primary elections and the end of substitution period dovetailed into the conduct of elections and even beyond.
“This more or less distorts what the commission’s activities and also puts it on edge in terms of knowing which political parties would be on the ballot and which would not,” he said.
He said the commission is looking at a situation where it could shorten the regime of the determination of pre-election matters to make it possible for it to have some level of sanity before going into any major election.
On new political parties, he said the number of political associations waiting to be registered are more than the existing ones adding that if they are registered Nigeria would have over 200 parties in 2023 elections.
Okoye said that the issue of the number of political parties is a challenge because the ballot papers are getting longer and the result sheets are getting bigger and creating a big challenge for the voters.
He said: “So I think we need to have a national conversation to see whether we really need the number of political parties in existence in the country or not.
Meanwhile, Nigeria used about two million tonnes of paper to conduct the 2019 General Elections, an official of INEC has said.
“For the first time, we used close to two million tonnes of paper for the conduct of elections, that is paper that will fill about 60 and 70 aircrafts, Prince Adedeji Soyebi, INEC National Commissioner in charge of South West, said on Tuesday.
Soyebi, also the Chairman, Board of the Electoral Institute, INEC, raised the concern in Lagos at the INEC 2019 State Level Post Election Review Retreat.
The meeting had in attendance INEC management staff including heads of departments, electoral officers and their assistants and some collation officers in the state at the 2019 elections.
Soyebi said elections in the country had been too expensive due to mistrust among the stakeholders.
“We must look for a way to perfect the system. The build up to the election was very rancorous,’’ he said.
According to him, the number of woods cut to produce huge paper used for ballots, perfecting security features to currency standard, logistics and others, call for concern.
“Most of the things we do here are due to lack of trust. When we print out ballot paper, we print it up to currency quality with a lot of security features.
“We transport them as if we are transporting money with fully armed security apparatus, keep in central bank as if they are currency; all these are prices of mistrust among ourselves.
” This mistrust is costing the country very hugely. All these we must address as a nation; we cannot continue this wasteful expense because we don’t trust ourselves.
”It is just appropriate for us to take stock after a major exercise like this. In the history of elections in Nigeria, this is the first time we will be confronted with huge logistics problems,” he said.
Soyebi , who also frowned at huge number of petitions and litigation arising from party primaries and general elections, said that the country had a long way to go.
He said that full electronic voting would tackle most of Nigeria’s electoral challenges.
“Time waits for nobody; we need a dynamic electoral system. The dynamics of politics and elections keep changing in Nigeria every time.
“We have been clamouring for what is called full electronic voting. By now, our register is electronic; accreditation by the smart card readers is electronic.
“Honestly, in my opinion, if we can have electronic balloting, it will help the system, it will rest a lot of things,’’ he added.
He said in 2015, the total number of registered voters was about 70 million, and in 2019, about 84 million.
“If we project into 2023, we should expect about 100 million registered voters.”
Soyebi congratulated INEC staff for their performances in the 2019 elections in spite of challenges.
He said that the commission had started making preparation for 2023 general elections, adding that the first ballot would be cast in 2023, exactly 1, 332 days away.
“What we are here to do is to find out things that went right and look at those things that went wrong and find ways of correcting them.
“This review is going to translate into relationship with other stakeholders to find out what went right and what went wrong.
Mr Sam Olumekun, the Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC in Lagos State, said at the event that there was the need for stakeholders to consider addressing voter apathy before 2023 elections.
Olumekun said that the meeting was aimed at conducting a postmortem of the 2019 elections.
He said that the objective was to review operational framework and provide a platform for knowledge sharing.
According to him, there are reports and comments on the conduct and outcomes of the elections, including those abusing INEC and those supporting it.
He said: “We need to look at all these reports and, in good conscience, comment on these reports. There have been massive allegations of inducement of voters and vote-buying.
“In my humble opinion, this is the effect of processes in the system, but must we not ask the question: If there is an effect, what is the cause?
“Another important issue is voter apathy. We have close to 6.6 million registered voters in Lagos.
“In each of those elections, we recorded barely one million people turning out to vote.
“This is a very important issue that we must look into. How can we mitigate this development?”