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Tribunal Chides Nigeria’s Electoral Commission Over April Polls

Some Nigerians have welcomed as good news the Election Tribunal’s ruling Thursday chiding the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) for not organizing free, fair and credible elections last April. In its ruling, the tribunal ordered the removal from office of the Adamawa State governor. It also declared that the candidate of the Action Congress Party was wrongly disqualified. The court also gave the electoral commission 90 days to organize free and fair gubernatorial elections in Adamawa state.

This is the fifth major decision to go against President Umaru Musa YarAdua’s ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) since the April polls, which both local and international observers described as largely flawed. Meanwhile Hundreds of results, from Umaru Yar'Adua's election as president, to the state house of assembly level across the country, are being contested before election tribunals, which were set up to adjudicate April’s polls.

Kabir Mato is a political science professor at the University of Abuja. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that the ruling is good news for the well-meaning Nigerians.

“I think that is expected, and I think that is what every serious Nigerians should be celebrating now because immediately after the 2007 elections, the manner in which the elections were conducted clearly spelled a lot of doom for the Nigerian society. And some of us, of course clearly came out and advised citizens to remain patient and allow the judiciary to determine the matters on the basis of the facts on the ground,” Mato pointed out.

He said Thursday’s ruling should serve as a caution to some of the state organs, which he said, are sometimes used as political tools against opponents of the ruling party.

“The elections in Adamawa state, every Nigerian knows that obviously it was going to be cancelled because it was one of the two states where the gubernatorial aspirants of the opposition parties that were in fact very strong there and likely winners of the elections were disqualified on the eve of the elections. And I think it’s a serious lesson, especially to two major institutions in this country that have played very dangerous roles in trying to truncate Nigerian democracy, and that is the Independent Electoral Commission and the EFCC, the Economic Financial and Crimes Commission,” he said.

Mato said Nigerians are appreciative of the work currently being done by the Elections Tribunal.

“Oh Yes of course, you recall about a week ago the president himself while addressing the conference of Nigerian judges came out with a position that has been seriously criticized by a cross section of Nigerian society. The statement, which appeared to suggest that the president and the ruling PDP were not happy with the manner in which especially the appellate court this time around the Supreme Court and the election tribunals are determining certain cases that were clearly flawed. So I think Nigerians are really excited,” Mato noted.

He concurred with the tribunal’s criticism of the Electoral Commission’s conduct of the April polls as flawed.

“Yes, I agree with it. The whole problem we are facing in this country today so far as the democratic process is concerned basically stemmed from certain wrongdoings of institutions that in the ordinary were supposed to ensure the emergence of very credible governments in place, and that is the Independent Electoral Commission. Before the courts, virtually every sentiments of the Nigerian society have continued to criticize the way and manner in which the electoral body organized and conducted the elections. So it’s a very straightforward matter,” he said.

Mato said Nigerians are calling for the chairman of INEC to resign for overseeing flawed elections in April.

“Up to this moment, Nigerians are calling that the head of the Independent Electoral Commission Professor Maurice Iwu should give way because he lacks the moral capacity to continue to remain in that position because of the way and manner in which the lower courts and the Supreme Court of Nigeria, especially at the election petitions tribunals are now bringing out judgments that are direct indictments on the manner and the integrity of the entire electoral processes that were supervised by Professor Maurice Iwu,” Mato said.