A Federal High Court in Abuja has held that it is only the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that is empowered by law to determine the mode of collating and transmitting election results.
Justice Emeka Nwite, in a judgment, also held that it is only INEC that has the prerogative to direct how Polling Unit Presiding Officer should transfer election results, including the total number of accredited voters and results of the ballot.
Justice Nwite further held that the collating and transferring election results manually in the 2023 general elections cannot be said to be contrary to the relevant provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022.
The judgment was on a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1454/2022 filed by the Labour Party (LP), with INEC as the sole defendant.
LP had prayed the court to declare that INEC has no power to opt for manual method other than the electronic method provided for by the relevant provisions the Electoral Act, 2022.
It urged the court to issue an order directing compelling INEC to comply with the Electoral Act, 2022 on electronic transmission of result in the forthcoming general election.
In the judgement he delivered on January 23, 2023 a copy of which The Nation sighted on Friday, Justice Nwite held that the plaintiff misconstrued the provisions of the law and proceeded to dismiss the suit.
He said: “From the argument of the learned plaintiff’s counsel, I am of the humble opinion that the bone of contention or the sections that seeks for interpretation are actually sections 50(2) 60(5) and 62(2) of the Electoral Act, 2922.
“Section 47(2) as cited by the learned counsel to the plaintiff only deals with accreditation of voters using a Smart Card Reader, but not collation or transmission of result as postulated by the learned counsel,” the judge held.
Justice Nwite noted that Section 60(5) of the Electoral Act, 2022 provides for the transfer of election result, including the total number of the accredited voters from the polling unit.
He also noted that Section 62(2) of the same Act provides for compilation, maintenance and continuous update of the register of election result as distinct database for all polling units’ results as collated in all elections conducted by the commission.
Justice Nwite added: “The said Section 62(2) has mandated that such register of election results shall be kept in an electronic format by the commission at its national headquarters.
“Now a close reading of Section 50(2) of the Act has provided for voting and and transmission of result to be done in accordance wit the procedure to be determined by the commission.
“This is to say that the commission is at liberty to prescribe or choose the manner in which election results shall be transmitted.
“In same ambit, Section 60(5) empowered the Polling Unit Presiding Officer to transfer the election results, including the total number of accredited voters and results of the ballot in a manner to be prescribeg py the commission.
“This is also to say the commission is again at liberty to prescribe to the Polling Units’ Presiding Officer the manner in which to collate and transfer the election results as well as the accredited number of voters in an election under the Act.”
“In view of the foregoing, can the act of the defendant (INEC) in collating and transferring election results manually in the forthcoming 2023 general elections be said to be contrary to the relevant provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022?
“The answer can only be in the negative as there is no where in the above cited sections where the commission or any of its Agents is mandated to only use an electronic means in collating or transferring of election result.
“If any, the commission is only mandated to collate and transfer election results and number of accredited voters in a way or manner deemed fit by it.
“In view of the above, I am finding that, by the provisions of Sections 50(2) and 60(5) of the Electoral Act, 2022 the correct interpretation of the said statutes is that the defendant (INEC) is at liberty to prescribe the manner in which election results could be transmitted and I so hold.
“Consequently this matter is hereby dismissed,” Justice Nwite said.