Presidential Tribunal Ruling Has Weakened Nigeria’s Electoral Act, ICT Reforms By Allowing INEC To Use ‘Human Discretion’ To Transmit Results – Civil Society Situation Room

The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (Situation Room) has faulted the judgment delivered by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) affirming the election of President Bola Tinubu, saying that the judgment has undermined the gains supposedly made with the passage of the Electoral Act, 2022.

Situation Room, which said this in a statement released on Friday, said that it observed fully, the delivery of the judgment of the tribunal on the February 25, 2023 presidential election on Wednesday.

Situation Room noted that “As a group with significant years of knowledge and experience on elections – both in the field and in the policy space, Situation Room is concerned that the judgment may have raised questions regarding the gains made with the passage of the Electoral Act 2022, particularly reforms that introduce technology in elections and require INEC to issue guidelines for the elections and implement it.”

The group recalled that the 2022 Electoral Act was hailed by stakeholders as a milestone achievement and progressive legislation mostly due to the incorporation of unprecedented technological innovations in the electoral legal framework, saying that for many, the provisions were expected to promote transparency in the electoral process.

According to the group, “Of note are the INEC Results Viewing portal (IReV) and the Bimodal Voter Accreditation system (BVAS), which were described as a game changer that would guarantee transparency and seamless management of elections.

“It is important to note that the Electoral Act 2022 provided safeguards indicating the need for INEC to be innovative in developing procedures that will help eliminate the human element regarding conduct of elections.

“It seems to us that these innovative reforms may now face challenges as the Tribunal has opened the implementation of these reforms to INEC’s human discretionary powers. This is indeed worrying for our electoral system.

“While some discretion may be necessary for flexibility in election administration, it is important that there are accountability mechanisms to prevent arbitrariness. Citizens look to the Judiciary to serve as a check on this discretionary power to ensure that administrative decisions are implemented in a transparent manner, and most importantly, in the public interest.

“It is also important to add that public funds were appropriated by the National Assembly and invested on these technological innovations, which were developed and publicised by INEC.

“Situation Room notes that it is within the rights of the contending political parties to further dispute or accept the judgment issued by the Tribunal on the elections and will be watching developments regarding further actions by the political parties involved.

“Situation Room will continue to monitor closely how litigations around the general elections evolves especially at the Supreme Court level and will be pursuing further legislative advocacy that requires INEC to mandatorily implement reforms passed by Nigeria’s Legislature.”