…cites inaccuracies, misinterpretations

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday disputed a front-page report by The Guardian (Nigeria) that seemed to impugn the Commission’s credibility, citing several inaccuracies and misconceptions contained in the report.

The report, dated Wednesday, 18th October 2023, was titled “INEC’s credibility sinks as 94% contested posts await tribunal”.

But the Commission, in a press release issued on Thursday and signed by its National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Sam Olumekun, cited inaccurate figures in the report, the mixing of pre-election and post-election cases, a skewed comparative perspective, and a headline that seemed to imply that election petitions were solely attributed to INEC’s actions or inactions.

INEC clarified that during the 2023 elections, voting took place in 1,491 constituencies across the country, comprising 1 Presidential, 28 Governorship, 109 Senatorial, 360 House of Representatives, and 993 State Assembly constituencies.

It said the report incorrectly claimed that State Assembly elections were held in only 28 states, discounting the eight states where governorship elections occur off-cycle and where House Assembly elections were also held, as legislators’ terms are fixed at four years from the Assembly’s inauguration.

The Commission also exonerated itself from any blame for pre-election cases resulting from political party primary elections, emphasizing that it does not conduct primaries for political parties.

Regarding the high number of election petitions, INEC pointed out that many litigants in Nigeria filed election petitions over improbable cases, and a substantial number of these petitions were either dismissed or withdrawn.

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Out of 1,196 petitions, 74.4 percent were found to have no merit, affirming the results of elections conducted by INEC.

INEC emphasized that filing petitions was an integral part of the democratic process, not a blemish on the electoral system’s integrity.

The Commission also criticized the report’s analysis of the total number of petitions without considering the details of individual cases, explaining that multiple petitions might be filed for a single constituency. It added that this methodological issue made calculating the percentage of petitions problematic and statistically illogical.

Furthermore, INEC clarified that election challenges were not limited to its conduct but could include the eligibility of candidates and their nomination by political parties. It explained that it lacked the authority to screen candidates, and only the courts could disqualify them.

Presenting a comparative analysis to counter the report’s suggestion that the 2023 general election was regressive due to litigation, INEC said over the last three electoral cycles, the number of upturned elections had remained relatively low, even with an increase in the number of petitions.

“In 2015, only 13.1% of cases were nullified, and in 2019, elections were rerun in only 3.71% of constituencies. For the 2023 post-election litigations, only a small percentage of cases have led to rerun elections,” INEC said.

The Commission stressed that assessing its credibility or the conduct of the 2023 general election solely based on the number of petitions was inappropriate as litigants had the legal right to challenge election results.

While reaffirming its commitment to working with the media, INEC urged the press to strengthen, rather than impugn, the integrity of public institutions, especially when basic statistics demand circumspection.