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Card Reader, INEC and Supreme Court Judgement

Ogierhiakhi Friday Osakpamwan

Different persons or groups have for different reasons castigated the learned Justices of the Supreme Court over their verdicts affirming the gubernatorial victories of certain state governors whose elections were hitherto annulled by judgments, either of Election Tribunals or the Court of Appeal.

Remarkably, there has been a noticeable trend amongst the disgruntled persons or group, including indeed, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and some paid agents to deride the Supreme Court over its judgment which seemingly has rendered the fate or function of the Card Reader uncertain, in the conduct of future election.

The card Reader in INEC’s consideration has the potential to solve what perhaps has remained the intractable malaise of electoral malpractices. Interestingly however, it is INEC that has continued to undermine and show obvious ineptitude in the introduction, handling and operation of the Card Reader ever before the Judiciary had the opportunity to adjudicate on its legality or otherwise. INEC therefore must take full responsibility for wasting the tax payer’s money on a project it was ill-prepared to handle and stop trying to make a scapegoat of the Judiciary or anybody for that matter.

Preparatory to the 2015 General Election, Professor Athahiru Jega as chairman of INEC introduced the Card Reader to Nigerians with pomp, pageantry and fanfare. Most Nigerians actually thought INEC had at last found a lasting solution to electoral malfeasance in the Nigerian electoral system with the entry of the Card Reader. In Edo state, Mr Mike Igini who then was the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) turned a Zealot selling a so -called electoral ‘wonder.’

As a candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last 2015 General election; I contested to return to the Edo State House of Assembly after first being voted in 2011 to represent Orhionmwon South Constituency for a 4-year period certain albeit that the State Governor, Adam Aliu Eric Oshiomhole, allegedly instigated a brawl in the 3rd year from which that House never emerged as one. The gist here is that, Mike Igini despite being a vociferous advocate of the Card Reader as an anti- rigging instrument however failed to demonstrate his conviction in the election he conducted at Orhionmwon either on the 28th of March or 11th of April , 2015. Specifically, in units 4 and 5 (Iguere Community) of ward 06 and units 1,2, and 3 (Urhomehe Community) of ward 07 being respectively the communities of APC’s House of Assembly candidate at the election and the Deputy Governor of the APC led government in Edo State, the use of the Card Reader was clearly compromised to help our opponents perpetrate heinous votes allocation to themselves.

In their desperation, it was later discovered that votes were entered for late Felix Uwugiaren and several other deceased persons on the voters’ register. These deaths (before the 2015 election) were already well-documented and acknowledged by INEC during the PVC collection exercise, yet, they were shown to have posthumously voted in ward 07, units 01, 02 and 03. In Iguere’s polling units the situation was more bizarre because of the total registered voters 570 accreditation was given as 557 which represents over 99% of the voters. Igini’s INEC would want the world to believe that only thirteen (13) persons were absent from those two (2) units at the election even when the voters registration exercise was conducted over four years earlier.

Nothing could be further from the truth as there were several of the names on the register shown as having accredited or voted, who have died or traveled outside the shores of Nigeria and were not at all present at the election. Ignominiously these fictitious votes were counted and used to decide the final outcome of election in spite of the Card Reader.

It is ridiculous and worrisome to see again that Igini who reigned over these returned to the media lampooning the Supreme Court’s decision for its refusal to give judicial recognition to the Card Reader. I actually watched him on national television stations and read him too in print media attempting to exonerate INEC from any blame in what now appears to be the uncertain fate of the card reader.

Could the former REC have forgotten that under his watch the card reader was never sacrosanct and that crude electoral theft( in the manner analyzed above), went unchecked. INEC must take full responsibility for an otherwise excellent policy that was poorly and improperly implemented by its bad handlers thus worsening an already very bad situation in our polity. Let it be understood by Igini and his likes, that there is the need to interrogate and deal first with the human element in the system and not this hasty celebration of a piece of technology which we do not seem to have a grasp of.

Not done with their electoral atrocities in the field of play, INEC paid Solicitors to proceed to the tribunals and the other Courts to argue against its principles, rules and operation. Upon approaching the tribunal in Benin City with my complaints, INEC lawyers fought documents containing the card reader data not withstanding that such were presented in legally admissible form. It was sheer legal absurdity to find INEC’s lawyers in the tribunals launched vitriolic attacks against the card reader with traitorous legal punches. Although our petition containing the acts of electoral malpractices in the manner herein before briefly adumbrated was dismissed but that judgment could have been anything but Jurisprudential.

At a time when the Supreme Court had given reasons for its decision in several governorship election petition appeals, it leaves much to be desired to find that the Court of Appeal , sitting in Benin City has been unable to do likewise in their summary concurrence with the Election Tribunal which sat on our petition in the first instance.

Granted that our pre-occupation here is the mischievous advocacy of INEC’s solicitors before the courts and not necessarily the conduct or otherwise of these jurists but suffice it to mention nevertheless that the pervasive judicial perfidy seems as much a threat to the survival of democracy as corrupt and inept INEC hired solicitors. Having themselves undermined the card reader, it would be illusory for INEC to have expected the revered justices of the Supreme Court to weep more than the bereaved? INEC ought to know better than they have shown!

This post was syndicated from THISDAYLIVE. Click here to read the full text on the original website.

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