The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has recently presented compelling statistics that showcase a significant decline in the number of upturned elections in Nigeria since 2015. This decline is considered a promising reflection of the nation’s evolving electoral experience. In this comprehensive article, we will delve into the data provided by INEC and the insights it offers, shedding light on the improvement in the country’s electoral processes.
Understanding INEC’s Perspective
Sam Olumekun, the INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, addressed concerns regarding the credibility of INEC and the conduct of elections. He emphasized that many reports accusing the commission of poorly conducted elections lack empirical evidence and are fueled by bad faith. Olumekun’s statement provides a crucial context for evaluating the statistics and the broader electoral landscape in Nigeria.
Analyzing the Data
In 2015, a total of 663 election petitions were filed at the tribunals. Out of these, 87 (13.1%) were nullified, leading to the Commission ordering re-runs in certain polling units or entire constituencies. This represents the baseline for our analysis, as it’s the starting point for assessing the trend of upturned elections.
The 2019 elections saw an increase in the number of petitions filed, with a total of 807. However, the percentage of elections re-run was significantly lower at 3.71%. This indicates a positive shift in the electoral process, as fewer petitions resulted in the overturning of elections.
As of Monday, 16th October 2023, the 2023 post-election litigations were still ongoing. Notably, all five petitions filed in respect of the Presidential election were dismissed, and only three were pending on appeal. For Governorship election petitions, a substantial 87.8% were either dismissed or withdrawn by the petitioners.
For Senatorial elections, 146 petitions were filed, out of which 68.5% were dismissed or withdrawn. The statistics for the House of Representatives and State Houses of Assembly were equally promising, with 74.81% and 82.4% of petitions dismissed or withdrawn, respectively.
The Commission emphasizes that assessing its credibility or the conduct of the 2023 General Election based solely on the number of petitions is inadequate. Litigants have the legal right to file petitions, and this should not be perceived as a reflection of INEC’s performance. INEC calls for circumspection when evaluating these statistics, urging the media to strengthen public institutions rather than impugn their integrity.
INEC’s response was triggered by a report in a national newspaper, which claimed that INEC’s credibility had suffered as 94% of contested posts awaited tribunal rulings. INEC refutes this claim and provides valuable insights to debunk the misconceptions in the report.
First, INEC conducts elections in a total of 1,491 constituencies across the country. These include Presidential, Governorship, Senatorial, House of Representatives, and State Assembly constituencies. The claim that State Assembly elections were held in only 28 States of the country overlooks the fact that legislative house tenures are tied to the legislative houses’ fixed term of four years from the date of inauguration, not the executive’s term.
Responsibility for Primary Elections
The report also erroneously places blame on INEC for pre-election cases arising from the conduct of primary elections by political parties. INEC does not organize political parties’ primaries; these are intra-party cases involving party members.
Outcome of Election Petitions
Many litigants in Nigeria file election petitions, sometimes over improbable cases, only to later withdraw or have them dismissed by the tribunals. An analysis of the cases decided so far shows that 74.4% of petitions found no merit, affirming the results of the elections conducted by INEC.
The report analyzed the total number of petitions as if they were all filed against the outcome of the election in 94% of all elective positions, without considering the details of the cases. Some constituencies had multiple petitions, leading to a skewed percentage calculation that is methodologically problematic and statistically illogical.
Grounds for Challenging Elections
It’s important to note that the grounds for challenging election outcomes extend beyond INEC’s conduct of elections. Petitions can be filed based on the eligibility of candidates or their nomination by political parties. INEC does not have the authority to screen candidates, and only the courts can disqualify candidates.
In conclusion, the decline in upturned elections since 2015, as indicated by INEC’s statistics, is a testament to the improvement in Nigeria’s electoral processes. While the number of election petitions may have increased, the percentage of elections nullified or re-run has notably decreased. It’s crucial to approach these statistics with an understanding of the complexities of electoral litigation and the various grounds on which petitions can be filed.