A Labor Party (LP) lawsuit that sought to force the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to use electronic means of transmitting the results of the 2023 elections was dismissed by a Federal High Court in Abuja.
According to a ruling by Justice Emeka Nwite, Section 52(2) of the Electoral Act of 2022—cited by the party's attorney, Monday Mawah—provided for voting and the transmission of results in accordance with a process that would be decided by INEC.
He interprets this to mean that the commission is free to specify or pick the method of disseminating election results.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday was able to obtain a copy of the judgment Justice Nwite issued on January 23, before the presidential and National Assembly elections that were held on February 25.
The LP sued INEC as a sole respondent by filing the originating summons, designated FHC/ABJ/CS/1454/2022, through counsel on August 22, 2022.
The party asked the court to determine whether, with the combined effect of sections 47 (2), 50 (2), 60(4), 60(5), and 62 (1)(2) and other relevant provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, the commission can still insist on manual collation of results in the general elections.
The LP sought two injunctive reliefs in the event that the question was resolved in its favor.
These include “a declaration that the respondent has no power to opt for a manual method other than the electronic method provided for by the relevant provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022,” and an order compelling INEC to comply with the Electoral Act, 2022, on electronic transmission of results in the general elections.
INEC, however, neither responded nor filed any process in the suit.
Mawah in his argument submitted that, in view of the provisions of the law, manual collation of results was unknown to the Electoral Act 2022 and therefore must be rejected or disallowed by the court.
Delivering the judgment, Justice Nwite said: “It is indeed a trite law that the function of the court is no more than interpreting the law."
“In interpreting the law, the court is enjoined to interpret the status quo as it is without going outside it to bring in what the court would think was intended.”
According to him, the functions, roles, and duties of the court in the interpretation of a statute are to give meaning and effect to the clear and unambiguous words of the statute.
The judge said that from the argument of the plaintiff’s counsel, the bone of contention or the sections that they sought interpretation for were Sections 50(2), 60(5), and 62(2) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
According to him, “The provision of Section 60(5) of the Electoral Act, 2022, as cited above, has provided for the transfer of election results, including the total number of accredited voters from the polling unit.
“Section 62(2), on the other hand, provides for the compilation, maintenance, and continuous update of the register of election results as a distinct database for all polling units’ results as collated in all elections conducted by the commission.
“The said Section 62(2) has mandated that such a register of election results shall be kept in an electronic format by the commission at its national headquarters."
"Now, a close reading of Section 50(2) has provided for voting and transmission of results to be done in accordance with the procedure to be determined by the commission.
“This is to say that the commission is at liberty to prescribe or choose the manner in which election results shall be transmitted.”