The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it lacks the constitutional powers to cancel an election that was concluded and the results announced.
INEC National Commissioner Festus Okoye made this known in response to calls that the commission should have cancelled the Kogi election as a result of the pervasive violence that characterized it.
He said this during the review of the Kogi and Bayelsa states governorship elections in Abuja on Wednesday.
Okoye said INEC acknowledged that there was violence during the elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states, which led to the withdrawal of almost half of its ad-hoc staff from the process due to insecurity.
He said: “On whether INEC could have cancelled the election, Section 26 of the Electoral Act gives the Commission the power to postpone, not cancel. To postpone an election before the election starts.
“There is no provision of the law that gives the Commission the power to cancel. The law gives the Commission the power to postpone an election and go back if the condition has improved.”
Okoye said by the decision of the Supreme Court, once a presiding officer announces the result of an election from the polling unit, nobody, not even the Chairman of INEC has the power to cancel the result from that particular polling unit
He blamed the courts for circumventing the efforts of INEC to sanitise the electoral process and play its regulatory roles.
The INEC official cited instances where courts have reversed the decisions validly made by INEC, which in most instances, disrupt plans for election.
Okoye said: “In two senatorial zones in Imo State, in one federal constituency in Benue, in one state constituency in Niger, in one state constituency in Akwa-Ibom, we made the point that the returning officers for those constituencies announced the results of the elections under conditions that were cloudy and we decided to withhold the certificates of return for those constituencies.
“They simply went to court and the court said the moment a returning officer has made a return, only a court of law can reverse whatever return he has made.
“Just before the elections, the political parties were asked to submit the names of their candidates and the list of their candidates. Around seven of the political parties, or is it 14, submitted the names of underage candidates to the commission.
“And we said those nominations were invalid, and we said we are not going to take them because we believed, that we are a regulatory commission and that since the Constitution says only a Nigerian by birth can contest governorship election, that it will be irresponsible for the commission to sit back and then a Chinese national will be nominated to contest a governorship election.
“And it is in an affidavit and the person said I am from China or somebody is nominated and he said he is 25 years old. And there is an affidavit backing it, then we sit back and do nothing. So we wrote to the political parties and said your nominations are invalid.
“They went to court and the court said no, before we can even remove the name of an underage candidate or before we can remove the name of a Chinese, if the person has been nominated, we must come to court. and get permission before we can take action.”