Jega: Ex parte Orders Worry INEC

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ABUJA, March 16, (THEWILL) - Less than a month to the next general elections, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega today lamented that incessant ex parte orders served on the commission by the courts was posing a big challenge on the electoral process.

Jega made the disclosure at an interactive meeting with the House Committee on Electoral Matters investigating allegations of discretionary acceptance of court orders and acceptance of candidates by the commission.

The Chairman said he decided to speak out because as at the time he wrote to the National Judicial Council (NJC), the commission had received 70 ex parte orders.

He said that some of the orders had been vacated while others expired within some period of time.

According to Jega, the commission had more than 300 litigation against it where it was either joined or served separately explaining that the commission was doing its best under difficult circumstances to ensure that credible elections are conducted in April.

He said that it was not to his knowledge contrary to insinuations by the public that the commission made arbitrary substitutions and chose which court order to obey.

“Our consistency appears to be inconsistent because we are doing our best to obey court orders,” he said.

He noted that the nomination process of candidates for political parties was the responsibility of the commission under the electoral Act.

Jega however blamed political parties for lack of internal democracy, which had contributed greatly to the number of litigations in the courts.

He challenged members of the committee to come forward with any specific case so that it would be addressed by the commission.

Mr. Philip Umeadi, INEC’s Director of Legal Services and Chairman, Legal Services Committee said that a situation where candidates go to court to insist on their candidacy was challenging.

He said that there was no order served on the commission by the court of competent jurisdiction that was not obeyed.

Hon. Sarkin Adar (PDP-Sokoto), the Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters said that the meeting was necessitated by the concerns of Nigerians over court orders.

“This meeting is aimed at clarifying issues concerning the alleged discretionary acceptance of court orders by INEC,’’ he said.

He said that the House was concerned with the successful conduct of the April general elections.

Hon. Henry Dickson (PDP-Bayelsa), the Chairman of Justice Committee said that the committee would want to have a list of court orders it received to date.

He said that if the situation was not well managed, it could jeopardise the ongoing electoral process.

The second phase of the meeting was held behind closed door.

Recall that the House of Representatives had on March 9 mandated its Joint committee on Electoral matters and Justice to investigate INEC’s role in the recent party primaries.

Hon. West Idahosa (PDP-Edo) had alleged that INEC chose which candidate and court order to accept in respect of the recent party primaries.