When President Muhammadu Buhari signed the 2022 Electoral Act into law, Nigeria electorate had high hope that the 2023 general elections would be a clear departure from the usual practice of electoral malpractices and manipulations which have become a norm in the country since 1999 when Nigeria returned to democratic rules.
Appraising the performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as it relates to the general conduct of the 2023 elections, someone can boldly say that there are improvements especially with the introduction of the BVAS machine that have helped in sanitizing the accreditation process and eliminate proxy voters, hence reducing rigging to some certain level in the electioneering process in the country.
However, despite the gains of the introduction of the BVAS, it is sad to note that some very powerful individuals in the country don’t want the system to run well hence they still look for means to cut corners which have jeopardized the gains recorded with the introduction of BVAS, if not how can we say that the electoral body whose guide is the electoral act 2022 and regulations and guidelines 2022 decided to abandon its working documents to follow instructions that are contrary to the rules and regulations.
It is clearly stated and as it has happened in many states and Constituencies in the just concluded National, State assemblies and Governorship elections in the country that it is the lead margins principle that was applied to declare some election inconclusive same way Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu Federal Constituency election was declared inconclusive due to margins of lead, yet INEC contravened its rules to declare winner in an election that have not been concluded which was pronounced by the Returning Officer, Dr. Adams Baba.
‘Where the margin of lead between the two leading candidates in an election is NOT in excess of the total number of voters who collected their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) in Polling Units where elections are postponed, voided or not held in line with Sections 24(2 & 3), 47(3) and 51(2) of the Electoral Act 2022, the Returning Officer shall decline to make a return for the constituency until polls have been conducted in the affected Polling Units and the results collated into the relevant forms for Declaration and Return. This is the Margin of Lead Principle and shall apply wherever necessary in making returns for all elections in accordance with these Regulations and Guidelines’
What then can we say when an institution which is established by law decided to dance to the tune of inducement and jettison the acts that empower it to function to organize credible elections.
One will think it is good for the judiciary to make some fundamental pronouncements as regards the behavior of some of the INEC officers before, during and after each election circle in the country because the law is very clear on this:
“Where an election is declared null and void in one or more polling units for over voting in line with clause 40 of the INEC Regulations and Guidelines for Elections, 2022, another day shall be fixed for Supplementary Election in the affected polling units and returns from the affected Constituencies Shall not be made until polls are conducted in the affected polling units”
With many of the governorship, national and state assemblies elections declared inconclusive due to margins of lead, then what becomes of the Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu Federal Constituency where the Returning Officer, Dr. Adams Baba, declared the election inconclusive due to margins of lead, how come after 10 days of elections INEC went ahead to declare winner when the process has not been concluded. This is big question begging for answer