Presidential Election: ‘Don’t Bend The Law’, Catholic Bishops Tell Supreme Court
As the candidates of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party (LP) and other parties prepare to challenge the outcome of the 2023 general election in the Supreme Court, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has asked the apex court not to seek to satisfy the whims and caprices of any political party nor bend the law.
The Bishops also took a swipe at the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) for ruling that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is not mandated to transmit election results electronically after billions of Naira were spent on Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BIVAS) and Result Viewing Portal (ReV).
Speaking at the Opening Ceremony of the 2023 Second Plenary Assembly of the CBCN, the President of CBCN, Archbishop Lucius Ugorji, prayed for a day to come when all election results will be finally decided at the polling units and not at the Court.
He said despite the reassurances by the INEC to deliver credible general elections in 2023, the elections fell short of the people’s legitimate expectations as well as moral and legal standards.
The CBCN President noted that the confidence of citizens in the 2023 electoral process was eroded by the many pitfalls and irregularities evident before, during and after the elections.
Archbishop Ugorji however, said Nigerians were disappointed that INEC failed to upload the presidential results in real time as promised.
“By the time the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, declared the presidential results, the results from thousands of polling units had not been uploaded on the IRev and a high percentage of the uploaded results, required for the verification and authentication of the manual results, were defaced or blurred.
“In some instances, irrelevant objects were uploaded on the IRev. Contestants in the presidential election, who protested against the electoral process and the results hurriedly declared by the INEC Chairman, were advised to go to court, and they did.
“After hearing their petitions, the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) delivered its ruling in a marathon judgement on 6 September 2023. The five Justices of the Election Petition Court unanimously dismissed the petitions.
“According to them, they lacked merit. Despite the billions of Naira of tax-payers money appropriated for the provision of the BIVAS technology as a game-changer in our general elections, the Judges in their ruling tried, among other things, to suggest that it was wrong to expect INEC to keep its promise or obey the electoral regulation of transmitting election results electronically in real-time from the polling units.
“While respecting the views of the Judges, two of the petitioners rejected their verdict as lacking in justice and so have decided to head to the Supreme Court to seek justice. As this case moves to the next level, the fate of the country continues to hang in the balance and the future of democracy in our land stands on the edge of a precipice.
“We pray and hope that the Supreme Court Judges will neither bend the law nor seek to satisfy the whims and caprices of any party. We also pray and hope for a day in our nation when all election results will be finally decided at the polling units and not at the Court”, he said.
Speaking on the state of the nation, the Bishop said insecurity remains a major problem in the country, and it is worsening in many communities as bandits, unknown gunmen, Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram militia terrorise the populace.
In his remarks, the President Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN ), Archbishop Daniel Okoh said the plenary session is coming at a time when Nigerians are still going through excruciating pains arising from harsh economic policies, recklessness of past governments, banditry and kidnapping.
The CAN President who was represented by the General Secretary of CAN Apostle Professor Samson Fatokun, said prices of basic necessities have skyrocketed beyond the reach of ordinary people, and there appears not to be any respite in sight.
“In addition, the new wave of military coups among our close neighbours and calls from certain quarters for military action against the coupists raise fears that living conditions may worsen in our country if that option is eventually taken by the Authority of the ECOWAS Heads of Government.”