Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has emphasised that it will uphold the Supreme Court ruling not to accommodate any All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for both governorship and legislative elections in the forthcoming general elections.
The Supreme Court in Abuja upheld the order of a Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, nullifying the APC primaries in Rivers State, holding that the primaries were held in disobedience to a court judgement barring the party from conducting congresses pending the determination of a suit filed by 22 aggrieved members of the party.
The apex court in its judgement set aside the ruling of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt, which in October 2018, upturned the interlocutory order of the High Court.
In a unanimous verdict by a five-man panel of justices, the Supreme Court said the judgement sought to be upturned was entered by consent and could not be appealed as a matter of right.
Speaking during the daily briefing to update Nigerians and the international community on the processes made for this weekend’s poll, INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, insisted that since the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land had ruled on the matter, the commission had no other option than to obey the order.
“On the issues in Rivers, I think the Supreme Court has a number of pronouncements on that matter. And, for that reason, the commission has taken the position made by the judgement of the Supreme Court. Under our constitution, the Supreme Court is the last court of resort for any citizen. There must be an end to litigations as lawyers say.
“And, once a Supreme Court makes a pronouncement, all essence of authority in the paper are bound to obey the judgement of the Supreme Court. The commission as a law- abiding institution, is bound by the judgement. That is my answer to the question and there is nowhere else to go. We will go by the judgements of all the courts but once it gets to the apex court, that is the end to the litigation,” he said.
On the readiness of the commission to safeguard the voting materials from tampering, the INEC boss assured that the commission has a mechanism in place to fully protect its facilities from any unauthorised access as most of them are offline.
“But, I want to assure you that much of our ICT facilities are offline. It is almost impossible to attack something that is offline. You can only attack something that is online. So much of it is actually offline. But, I have taken note of what you have said and we will continue to strengthen security around the ICT. But at the moment, we have no reason for any panic about any possibility of attacks on the facility or compromise on our ICT facilities,” he assured.
The INEC boss also noted that the commission was not under any form of pressure from any quarter to conduct the elections, promising to announce the result of the election as soon as possible in line with the procedure used in announcing the 2015 presidential election.
“I said so before, but let me also repeat that now we have more presidential candidates than in 2015. We have more registered voters than we had in 2015. The size of the result sheet is bigger than what we had in 2015. But, we are committed to concluding the process for the presidential election roughly around the same time that we concluded the last general elections.
“I understand that there is greater urgency but keenly following the extension and particularly for those who are covering the commission that they don’t extend their stay more than is expected for the outcome of the election. We will do whatever we can to speedily conclude the election consistent with the provisions of the law. We won’t sacrifice due process on the altar of speed. But, we will make sure we balance speed and what we are supposed to do under the law,” he assured.
Earlier reading a prepared speech, he said: “At Tuesday’s briefing, we reported that we achieved 95 per cent configuration of the Smart Card Readers (SCR) nationwide. The card readers were introduced in the 2015 general elections to facilitate the accreditation of voters using the PVCs.
“They are configured to specific polling units and only open for use at 8 am on election day. They automatically shut down at 10 pm in order to forestall any illegal use before the appointed time of elections. I am pleased to report that we have now achieved 100 per cent completion of the configuration. We are good to go on this score.
“Similarly, I briefed you on Monday that our state offices had commenced the process of inviting stakeholders to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to examine the retrieved materials deployed last week and to witness the batching of materials according to local government areas (LGAs). Reports from the states indicate full compliance.
“Similarly, I said that having moved the sensitive materials to the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the forward deployment to the 774 LGAs nationwide commenced on Wednesday, February 20, 2019, and will be concluded on Thursday, February 21, 2019.
“Already, Adamawa, Anambra, Benue, Ekiti, Jigawa, Katsina, Osun, Ogun, Oyo, and Taraba states have commenced the movement of materials to LGAs. Other states will do so and conclude today. We will give a full rendition of movement to LGAs across all states of the federation today.
“We have been making good progress on logistics. Similarly, all other arrangements for the movement of personnel from the LGAs to the wards are on course. We will fully brief you tomorrow at 3 pm. We welcome you all and we will be happy to answer questions,” he noted