NATIONAL Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) Professor Mahmood Yakubu has expressed concern over conflicting judgment emanating from the judiciary, particularly from courts of coordinate jurisdiction in the country.

Professor Yakubu raised the alarm on Tuesday at a meeting with the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court Abuja, Justice Abdul-Kafarati.

The INEC chairman noted that such conflicting judgments often create confusion for his Commission and pleaded for the understanding of the judiciary.

He said: “For our part, there are two major areas of concern. First is the issue of conflicting judgments arising from pre-election and post-election cases.”

“As a firm believer in the rule of law, the Commission always obeys court orders or, where it is considered necessary, appeal in the interest of justice. In spite of the 1,134 cases involving the Commission since the 2015 General Elections, there has not been a single case in which the Commission disobeyed a court order.

However, conflicting judgments, all of which emanate from the High Courts, are putting the Commission in a very difficult situation and creating uncertainty in the process.

“The court in one judicial division may order the Commission on a particular course of action only to be contradicted by another court of coordinate jurisdiction from another division or even within the same division on the same subject matter.”

Even when we tried to apply the “principle of latest in time” by complying with the latest order, the orders appear unending. Sometimes the same case is pursued in different courts distinguishable only by semantics but the same consequential order at the end of the day.

Conflicting court orders are negatively affecting the consistency, neutrality, and public perception, not only of the Commission but the Judiciary as well. With 68 political parties in Nigeria today and over 90 applications from associations seeking registration as political parties, 397 days to the 2019 General Elections and 1,558 Constituencies for which elections will be conducted, there is urgent need to address the issue of conflicting judgments in order to
engender certainty in the nomination of candidates in particular and the electoral process in general.

‘’We are confident that My Lord the Chief Judge will grant expeditious consideration to our plea.’’

Professor Yakubu further asked the judiciary to look into the issue of dragging INEC into litigations arising from elections conducted by State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs) and declared that the Commission be insulated from such.
“Our second area of concern is the current trend to involve INEC in litigation arising from elections conducted by different and distinct legal entities.” INEC has no legal responsibility for the conduct or outcome of Local Government Elections conducted by the State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs).

“Being governed by laws enacted by the State Assemblies, the adjudication of disputes are done by the State High Courts.

“Unfortunately, in a number of recent Local Government Elections, litigants have joined INEC in suits filed at the Federal High Courts for the reason that only by joining a federal agency can their cases be entertained by the federal judiciary. We have instructed our legal counsel to raise objections in court wherever we are joined in cases involving Local Government Elections. At the same time, My Lord the Chief Judge may consider issuing a practice direction to the Federal High Courts or take any action considered more appropriate in this
regard.”

Nigerian Tribune