The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has given the biggest hint yet that it will not hesitate to withdraw certificates of return from presumed winners of any of the elections.
The electoral body said it is neither an adjudicatory body nor the Court of Appeal to determine the actual candidate or winner of a party’s primary election, but once competent courts declare auch, the certificate of return of the candidate in question will be withdrawn.
That much information was revealed by Festus Okoye, National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, at a forum on media coverage of the 2019 general election, organised by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in collaboration with INEC, in Enugu, on Monday.
He said; “We are not an adjudicatory body or the Court of Appeal. So, we will continue to withdraw certificates of return as the courts direct. Once we have a ruling, from a properly constituted court, we will obey. Even as we were about leaving Abuja, last Friday, we received reports of some court rulings ordering withdrawal of certificates of return. We will look at them and act accordingly.”
The INEC commissioner also called on the media to avoid commenting publicly or proffer opinions which may prejudice the outcome of a given case or petition before any court or tribunal.
“While cases are in court or in the tribunal, no one can publicly comment or proffer opinions which may prejudice the outcome of the case or petition. This is captured in the subjudice doctrine. Regrettably, many politicians, journalists, legal practitioners, “social commentators” and “policy analysts” have often used the media platforms to comment on live issues pending in the various tribunals and courts. This is unacceptable. We should refrain from this. Journalists and media houses, who offer their platforms for such, run the risk of incurring the wrath of the judges and being held in contempt,” he added.
He also stated, that a total of 25 certificates of return issued to some candidates that won in the 2019 elections have been withdrawn from them and issued to other persons.
Okoye said, “Before we left INEC national headquarters on Friday, the commission has withdrawn 25 certificates of return from the first owners to their new owners following court orders to do that.”
According to him, out the 25 certificates of return, 20 were withdrawn from candidates of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and handed to 20 other APC members.
Of the remaining five certificates of return, he said two were withdrawn from candidates of the People Democratic Party (PDP), and handed to two other PDP members, while the remaining three were withdrawn from APC and PDP and handed to other political parties.
Earlier in his welcome address, Enugu State INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, Emeka Ononamadu said, “INEC wants to hear from the media, security agencies, civil society organisations, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) etc on how the election fared. Whether there are avenues to improve on what we have.
“So, INEC is open to receive your objective deliberations and its outcome and we definitely take a critical look at your outcomes in order to better the electoral processes.”
In his contribution President, Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Chris Isiguzo, who applauded the robust consultations and meetings between the media, its practitioners and INEC before, during and after the elections, however noted that the reason for the Enugu meeting was to “evaluate the entire process and see where we can strengthen our engagement and better the electoral system.”