From Joe Effiong, Uyo
The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Akwa Ibom State, Mr Mike Igini, has advised political parties to put their house in order so as to have rancour-free congresses primaries.
Igini said while speaking with the press in his office in Uyo that the responsibility of selecting who should fly the parties’ flags or lead the parties is statutory, the sole responsibility of the respective political parties and not that of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) whose duty is only monitoring.
“It should be noted very clearly here, that the fact that the law has enjoined the Commission that we should monitor and observe the processes, that the actual conduct of party congresses, primaries, ward, local government delegates are clearly the business of political parties.
“But statutorily we are bound to monitor, observe them and write our report such that in the event of a dispute, all we need to do (because some are already in court) is to avail the parties who are going to court our reports of what we have done. And so that is the extent that we need to go.
“Most of the things you find in the court today are 90 per cent political, not legal. What is going on is the continuous invitation of the Court to answer political questions. The Court of Law does not answer political questions. Who should be a candidate for an election should not be a question for the umpire, and Court of Law to answer, but by political parties.”
He described as ironic the process in which a court of law would give an order that INEC should give a certificate of return in respect of party primaries election it INEC did not conduct.
“So this project 2023 is for all of us to give meaning and purpose to the ballot as the best means of expression of the will of the people in a democracy because the outcome of the election is a reflection of the collective values of everybody and that is the commitment of state institutions – INEC, judiciary, media, political parties.
“That is why we must work together to build a society where there will be an opportunity for all through the instrumentality of rule of law. Without the rule of law, the election will be nothing but a crude contest in the deployment of force that must not be allowed to happen in our country.” Igini said.
He lamented the seeming frustration the commission is experiencing with regard to a case of one of its ad hoc staff prosecuted for alleged malpractice during the computation of the 2019 election results.
“The Matter was filed alongside that of Peter Ogban, in 2020. This is the year 2022. The defence counsel deployed all manner of tactics to avoid defence. The CJ reassigned the matter from Archibong where the matter suffered, to judge Bassey Nkanang who has been presiding over the matter and we made tremendous progress to the extent that the Commission (prosecution) was able to through the Lawyer, Clement Onwuenwunor called 5 witnesses and avalanche documents to prove our case.
Five months after the prosecution had closed its case, the defence failed to open its defence, by coming up with all manner of frivolous objections to avoid opening his defence.
“I must say that there are limits to some of these Shenanigans that the court in reference to Section 36, about fair hearing which has somehow indulged or allowed the defence to exhaust every other means to go defend themselves, which is okay. but what they are doing is not to defend themselves but to frustrate and kill the case.
“Since 2020, the idea is to frustrate the case so that justice will not be done. Today we are preparing for the 2023 election, a case that was instituted in 2020 and presided over by Justice Augustine Odokwo but deposed with since on the 25th of March 2021. This is 2022 but Ignatius Uduk has refused to open his defence,” Igini said.