The House of Representatives has decried the alleged misinterpretation of the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, especially by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, asking the electoral umpire to explain the electoral processes in the law to Nigerians.
The House especially mandated its Committee on Electoral Matters to investigate INEC’s “process of voter registration, including alleged constraints on timely procurement/production of voter cards all through the year to the 2023 elections.”
The committee is to also investigate INEC’s voting process, from accreditation to transmission of results, including a practical demonstration to the Nigerian public to ascertain the existence of a central INEC server, the transmission of results from polling units, the existence of electronic collation officers and the ability to manipulate voting results at that level, ability or not to manipulate the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System machine.”
Also, the panel is to do a “proper interpretation of provisions of Section 115(d) and other provisions of the 2022 Electoral Act by INEC, its National Commissioners, Resident Electoral Commissioners and other members of staff, including the status of legal advice available within the Commission to guide the implementation of the Act, and determine whether any infractions have been committed by Mr Mike Igini or any other INEC staff (member) in their interpretation and implementation of the Act.”
Furthermore, the committee is to probe into the “existing due process in decision making by INEC with regards to guidelines, regulations and whether any of such decisions conflict with the provisions of the Act.”
The panel is to report back to the House within eight weeks for further legislative action.
These resolutions were based on the motion moved by a member of the House, Mark Gbillah, which the lawmakers unanimously adopted at the plenary on Wednesday.
The motion was titled ‘Investigation of the Credibility, Transparency and Accountability of the Independent National Electoral Commission Electoral Processes including its Interpretation and Implementation of the Electoral Act, 2022.’
Moving the motion, Gbillah expressed the “concerns in the country” over INEC’s “shortcomings in the conduct of recent off-season elections in Ekiti and Osun states regardless of the added focus, attention and resources and the consequent fear about its ability to conduct free and fair elections in the forthcoming 2023 elections when voting will be required to take place simultaneously across the country.”
He said, “The House is worried about the recent unguarded and erroneous interpretation of certain provisions of the 2022 Electoral Act by the INEC’s Resident Electoral Officer in Akwa Ibom State, Mr Mike Igini, who, while referring to Section 115(d) of the 2022 Electoral Act, said amongst several other things that politicians will go to jail for buying more than one nomination form.”
Quoting Igini to have said ‘we are preventing them from being candidates for prison and they are calling our names everywhere,’ the lawmaker said the REC implied that “INEC is making decisions about politicians and the electoral process based on flawed interpretation of the Act, without recourse to the National Assembly or a court of competent jurisdiction for proper interpretation.”
Gbillah added, “The House is also worried as originators and custodians of the 2022 Electoral Act about the controversy Mr Igini’s comments has generated across the country and the potential this has to unnecessarily heat up the polity and instigate frivolous and unwarranted litigation that can disrupt the smooth conduct of the forthcoming elections.”