A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ntufam Mba Ekpezu Ukweni SAN, has averred that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was not right in declaring Saturday’s gubernatorial election in Osun State inconclusive.
Reacting to the electoral umpire’s declaration, the senior lawyer told DAILY POST on Monday that, “the results of the just-concluded election showed that APC polled 254,345 while PDP polled 254,698.
“This ipso facto means the candidate of the People Democratic Party (PDP) polled the majority votes. The difference therefore is 353. INEC now says in as much as the difference between the cancelled votes which is over 3000 is more than the difference – 353, then he cannot declare the candidate with highest number of votes as the winner.”
“Was INEC right?” he asked and replied thus: “I will answer this question by relying on section 69 of the Electoral Act 2010. It provides;
“In an election to the office of the President or Governor whether or not contested and in any contested election to the other elective office, the result shall be ascertained by counting the votes cast by each candidate and subject to the provisions of sections 133, 134 and 179 of the Constitution, the candidate that receives the highest number of votes shall be declared elected by the appropriate Returning Officer.”
“Section 179 of the 1999 Constitution applicable to the instant case and the PDP candidate has satisfied the provision of 1/4 of all the votes cast in each of at least 2/3 of all the local government areas in the state.
“Therefore the decision of the INEC is not grounded in law. They should as a matter of urgency declare the candidate with the highest number of votes elected.”
Acknowledging that INEC declared the Osun governorship election as inconclusive because the difference in votes is less than the number of cancelled votes, Ukweni said, “they are probably relying on their 2015 guidelines which appears contrary to Constitutional provisions on this matter. It may make sense if the votes involved are in relation to centres were elections were not held due to no fault of the voters.
“However, were elections were held and votes are cancelled, they remain cancelled? They ought not to form part of the counting process and should not influence the outcome of the elections for any reason whatsoever.
“In Oshiomhole vs Osunbor & ords, cancelled vote were added to PDP’s scores. All the courts held that cancelled votes have no role to play in an election. The votes were deducted and Oshomhole was declared winner of the election.
“Why is INEC giving so much priority to cancelled votes on this occasion? I can’t fathom it. This may be more political than legal. Section 179 talks about cast votes. Cancelled votes were cast votes before they were cancelled.
“So cancelled votes have to be treated like, invalid votes, rejected votes as well. They’ve gone through the process of electioneering and have been cancelled. These are my thoughts,” he stated.