A Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed a suit filed by the Labour Party (LP) seeking to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to adopt electronic means of transmitting the 2023 election results.
The presiding judge, Justice Emeka Nwite, in his ruling, held that Section 52(2) of the Electoral Act, 2022, cited by counsel to the party, Monday Mawah, provided for voting and transmission of results in accordance with the procedure to be determined by INEC. According to the judge, INEC is at liberty to prescribe or choose how election results shall be transmitted.
The LP, through its lawyer, had filed the originating summons on Aug. 22, 2022, to sue INEC as a sole respondent, asking the court to determine whether the commission could still insist on manual collation of results in the general elections with the combined effect of various provisions of the Electoral Act 2022. The LP sought two injunctive reliefs in the event that the question was resolved in its favour. These include, “a declaration that the respondent has no power to opt for a manual method other than the electronic method provided for by the relevant provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022,” and an order compelling INEC to comply with the Electoral Act 2022 on electronic transmission of results in the general elections.
INEC, however, neither responded nor filed any process in the suit.
Mawah, in his argument, submitted that the manual collation of results was unknown to the Electoral Act 2022 and therefore must be rejected or disallowed by the court.
Justice Nwite, while delivering the judgment, said, “It is indeed a trite law that the function of the court is no more than interpreting the law. In interpreting the law, the court is enjoined to interpret the status as they are without going outside them to bring in what the court would think was intended.”
According to him, the functions, roles, and duties of the court in the interpretation of a statute are to give meaning and effect to clear and unambiguous words of the statute.
The judge said from the argument of the plaintiff’s counsel, the bone of contention or the sections that they sought interpretation for were Sections 50(2), 60(5), and 62(2) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
He said, “The provision of Section 60(5) of the Electoral Act, 2022, as cited above has provided for the transfer of election results including the total number of the accredited voters from the polling unit. Section 62(2) on the other hand provides for the compilation, maintenance, and continuous update of the register of election results as a distinct database for all polling units’ results as collated in all elections conducted by the commission. The said Section 62(2) has mandated that such a register of election results shall be kept in an electronic format by the commission at its national headquarters. Now, a close reading of Section 50(2) has provided for voting and transmission of results to be done in accordance with the procedure to be determined by the commission.”
The judge, therefore, dismissed the suit by the Labour Party, stating that INEC is not obligated to transmit 2023 election results electronically.