INEC Counters Allegations of Credibility with Data-Driven Defense

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By Iyojo Ameh

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has responded to a recent front-page report by The Guardian (Nigeria), dated Wednesday, 18th October 2023, titled “INEC’s credibility sinks as 94% contested posts await tribunal.” The Commission, in a press release signed by Sam Olumekun mni, National Commissioner & Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee on Thursday in Abuja, addressed several inaccuracies and misconceptions contained in the article.

The Commission expressed its concerns regarding the report, citing inaccurate figures, the mixing of pre-election and post-election cases, a skewed comparative perspective, and a headline that seems to imply that election petitions are solely attributed to INEC’s actions or inactions.

In response to the inaccuracies, INEC provided a clarification, stating that during the 2023 elections, voting took place in 1,491 constituencies across the country, comprising 1 Presidential, 28 Governorship, 109 Senatorial, 360 House of Representatives, and 993 State Assembly constituencies.

The report incorrectly claimed that State Assembly elections were held in only 28 states, failing to account for the eight states where executive elections occur off-cycle, as legislators’ terms are fixed at four years from the Assembly’s inauguration.

The Commission also refuted the report’s blame on INEC for pre-election cases resulting from political party primary elections. INEC emphasized that it does not conduct primaries for political parties.

Regarding the high number of election petitions, INEC pointed out that many litigants in Nigeria file election petitions over improbable cases, and a substantial number of these petitions are dismissed or withdrawn.

Out of 1,196 petitions, 74.4% were found to have no merit, affirming the results of elections conducted by INEC. INEC emphasized that filing petitions is an integral part of the democratic process, not a blemish on the electoral system’s integrity.

INEC also criticized the report’s analysis of the total number of petitions without considering the details of individual cases, explaining that multiple petitions may be filed for a single constituency. This methodological issue makes calculating the percentage of petitions problematic and statistically illogical.

Furthermore, INEC clarified that election challenges are not limited to INEC’s conduct but can include the eligibility of candidates and their nomination by political parties. INEC lacks the authority to screen candidates, and only the courts can disqualify them.

Finally, INEC presented a comparative analysis to counter the report’s suggestion that the 2023 General Election was regressive due to litigation. Over the last three electoral cycles, the number of upturned elections has remained relatively low, even with an increase in the number of petitions.

In 2015, only 13.1% of cases were nullified, and in 2019, elections were rerun in only 3.71% of constituencies. For the 2023 post-election litigations, only a small percentage of cases have led to rerun elections.

In conclusion, INEC stressed that assessing its credibility or the conduct of the 2023 General Election solely based on the number of petitions is inappropriate, as litigants have the legal right to challenge election results.

While reaffirming its commitment to working with the media, INEC urged the press to strengthen, rather than impugn, the integrity of public institutions, especially when basic statistics demand circumspection.

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