Nyok|25 September 2018
Mr John Gaul Lebo Esq the Member representing Abi State Constituency in the 8th Cross River State House of Assembly (CRSHA) who also doubles as Speaker of the same 8th CRSHA has said that the guidelines of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) cannot be elevated above the provisions of the Constitution and Electoral Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria NegroidHaven has confirmed.
The legal luminary made this position known yesterday while contributing his intellectual quota to the trending debate surrounding the decision of INEC, Nigeria's electoral umpire to declare the 22 September 2018 Osun gubernatorial election inconclusive on the basis that the difference between the votes of the leading candidate, Sen Adeleke and the APC contender was less than the total number of cancelled votes.
Citing a judgement of the Court of Appeal judgement sitting in Enugu over a similar argument, Lebo disclosed that the Electoral Act doesn't confer on INEC, that is, the Returning Officer such powers to declare the results inconclusive.
Lebo further informed that only two conditions would have necessitated such decision by INEC, namely, a tie after collation, and elections not holding in certain LGAs according to which the constitutional requirements of 2/3 coverage of LGAs by the winner wasn't met.
His words, 'It has also been held by the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court in several decisions that INEC guidelines cannot be elevated above the clear provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act.
'What INEC would have done is to order for supplementary election in the areas elections did not hold. But because elections held virtually in all local government, they could not order it.
Speaking earlier, he said, 'It was held by the Court of Appeal, Enugu in Appeal No. CA/E/EPT/52/2015 between Hon. Helen Nwobasi vs Hon. Sylvester Ogbaga & 2 others (now reported):
'There is no provision of the Electoral Act enabling or requiring the returning officer to declare the election inconclusive because the margin of victory between the two leading candidates is less than the total number of registered voters in the polling units whose elections were not held or cancelled, or for any reason.
'By virtue of S.69 of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended, the only power a returning officer has in an election to any elective office is to count the votes and declare elected the candidate with the highest number of votes.
'INEC cannot arrogate to itself the powers to protect voters whose votes were invalid or cancelled and insist on a rerun elections because the margin of victory between the candidate was less than the cancelled votes and that elections did not hold in certain local government.
'In my opinion, a rerun election should have been appropriate only under 2 conditions :
1. If there was a tie between the candidates after collation.
2. If the election was inconclusive because of the certain local government did not vote and as a result the candidates did not meet the provisions of S 79 of the constitution, which require 2/3 coverage of the local government in the state.
'The returning officer has taken a decision and it's left for the court to determine it's validity in law.'
Recall that the PDP candidate garnered 254, 698 votes against the APC candidate's 254, 345. The difference between the two being 353 votes while the cancelled votes are 3,498. Thursday this week has been scheduled for a rerun.
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