Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, (HURIWA), on Monday, faulted the allocation of N3bn by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to prosecute electoral litigations arising from the 2023 general elections.
HURIWA, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, said INEC should not spend up to that as the commission has its legal department which is supposed to defend the election outcome if indeed there were no malpractices in the February 25 and March 18 polls.
The group said INEC must be asked in clear terms through contempt proceedings to provide opposition parties with public materials and information or access to the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System used for the poll so justice is done and seen to have been done.
Recall that INEC budgeted over N3bn to defend the results of the February 25 presidential and national assembly election and the March 18 governorship and state assembly polls as seen in its Election Project Plan for the 2023 general election where N3b was earmarked for the prosecution of election-related cases.
The document which was obtained on Sunday read, in part, “Litigation and prosecution: N2,104,965,000 (2022) and #3,087,195,425 (2023). Total, N5,192,160,425.’’
The INEC election project plan also showed that the electoral umpire budgeted N886.2m for legal drafting and clearance in 2022 and 2023.
The commission allocated N337.4m for legal drafting and clearance in 2022 while N548.7m was budgeted for the same item for this year.
The electoral umpire also hired about 10 senior advocates to handle the numerous election petition cases lodged at the tribunals.
HURIWA’s Onwubiko said, “INEC has continued to sabotage the efforts of political parties to gain access to materials used for the election so as to advance their cases and petitions at the tribunal and INEC has gone ahead to vote a whopping N3 billion Naira that it will filter in election petitions in what is clearly a scam and a predetermined scheme to enrich friends of the Chairman and commissioners of INEC.
“What happens to the legal department of INEC and why is INEC spending hugely to defend the elections if they think that there were no malpractices because only the guilty are afraid?
“INEC must be asked in clear terms through contempt proceedings to provide opposition parties with public materials and information or access to BVAS used for the poll so justice is done and seen to have been done. Any other resistance by INEC to allow parties and litigants access those vital documents means only one thing- INEC HAS SOMETHING TO HIDE.
“In fact, court orders were not enough as it took threat of nationwide protests from the Labour Party and the Peoples Democratic Party for INEC to give the parties conditional access to just a few materials in an attempt to frustrate their petitions. Is INEC working for Nigeria or for Tinubu?”
April 3, 2023
Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko
National Coordinator – HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA.