A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, claims that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) fought opponents of President Bola Tinubu at the Presidential Election Tribunal (PEPT) and cannot organise credible polls.
He made the comment in a statement he released following the judgement of the Tribunal on Wednesday which threw out the petitions of Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party challenging the declaration of Tinubu as the winner of the February election.
Adegboruwa said the Tribunal’s verdict was not “totally unexpected, given the stark realities facing us as a nation and the state of the law”.
He added that “the principles of presumption of regularity of elections and that of substantial conformity make it extremely difficult to prosecute elections successfully.
“In this particular case, the burden placed upon the petitioners in order to upturn the election was practically insurmountable. To make matters worse, INEC practically fought the petitioners to a standstill, as if it was an interested party in the whole process.”
He suggested that if INEC is not unbundled to make it more independent, non-partisan and effective, anyone declared “winner” will most often coast to victory in the election tribunal.
“Today’s verdict should be a reason for sober reflection by all, especially for the parties in court, their lawyers and all lovers of democracy. The petitions could have been decided purely on points of law and within a few days of the election.
“There can be no real victory in the resolution of the legal issues by the court when the fabric of our democratic engagements seems to have been hijacked and compromised. Part of the lesson in this process is for us to go back and review the electoral process and the litigation following it. INEC as it is presently constituted cannot birth any credible election in Nigeria.
“In all, maybe there was too much expectation that the status quo would be upturned, whereas many of the principles of law canvased had long been settled by the apex court.
“While encouraging all parties to continue in towing the paths already defined by law for the ventilation of grievances, we owe Nigeria an urgent duty to dismantle INEC, urgently,” he said.
His comment comes on the heels of the judgement by the five-member panel of judges that dismissed petitions against Tinubu, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2023 poll.
The Tribunal also threw out the petitions of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) against Tinubu.
But the PDP and LP have rejected the verdict, saying they would consult their lawyers before the next move.