The Independent National Electoral Commission has solicited the support of the Nigeria Bar Association in handling its numerous pre-electoral cases in courts across the country.
The INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made the call on Thursday when he hosted a delegation of the Nigerian Bar Association led by its President, Mr Yakubu Maikyau, at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja.
He said as of Feb. 6, INEC had been joined in 1,241 intra-party lawsuits in different courts of law, not on elections conducted by INEC but on primaries conducted by political parties for the nomination of candidates for the 2023 general election.
He said some of the cases had gone to the Federal High Court, some were before the Court of Appeal, and others were before the Supreme Court.
“On pre-election litigation alone, as at Monday this week, Feb. 6, INEC has been joined in 1,241 cases making us one of the most litigated against agencies in the country.
“These cases have nothing to do with elections conducted by INEC. They are primary elections conducted by political parties.
“But each time they go to court, they join the commission and we have to engage either our own in-house lawyers or we transfer the cases out to external legal firms to represent the commission.
“Out of these 1,241 cases, over 300 are right now before the Court of Appeal. And 155 before the Supreme Court as at Monday this week,” Yakubu said.
He, therefore, requested the support of the NBA in handling some of the cases, particularly pro bono service to the nation.
The chairman said the commission was not only committed to free, fair, credible and inclusive elections, but equally verifiable elections.
Yakubu said that was why the commission over time had been working to deepen usage of technology in Nigeria elections.
“It is not just those involved in the elections as coalition or returning officers, but even citizens must have access to results of election on election day.
“That is what we have been working for sometime now, our hope is that citizens will even know the outcome of elections before we make a formal declaration of results.
“This is what has been encouraging us to strengthen and deepen the use of technology in elections.
“The allegiance of the commission is to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and our loyalty is only to the people of Nigeria, the voters.
“We remain unshaken in ensuring that we deliver election that truly reflects the wishes of Nigerians,” Yakubu said.
Yakubu also called for the collaboration of the NBA with the commission in handling rising election litigations in the country.
Speaking earlier, Maikyau assured that the NBA would assist INEC in protecting its independence and achieving its mandates.
Maikyau commended the INEC chairman for boosting the confidence of Nigerians in the electoral system since he assumed office.
“We are solidly behind INEC and your administration and would not allow any thing to dent this process.
“Any attempt by anyone or any group of persons to intimidate, or harass INEC in the discharge of its constitutional responsibility please my Chairman just know that you can place a demand on NBA and give responsibility to help secure the independent INEC and the integrity of the process.”
He stressed that NBA remained a non-partisan association and would do everything possible to sanction any of its members that would tarnish its image.