34 Nigerians have filed a lawsuit against President Tinubu for promoting APC supporters to prominent INEC positions.

Tinubu - Rapid News GH

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), BudgIT, and 34 concerned Nigerians have filed a lawsuit against President Bola Tinubu over the appointment of at least four members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and allies of high-ranking politicians to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as new Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs).

Seven of the ten newly appointed RECs for INEC have been confirmed by the Senate. Among those allegedly nominated as RECs are APC members from Akwa-Ibom, Edo, Lagos, and Rivers states.

The plaintiffs are seeking an order setting aside the nomination, confirmation, and appointment of the accused APC members as RECs for the INEC as unconstitutional, unlawful, null, invalid, and of no effect in the action number FHC/L/CS/2353/2023 filed on Friday at the Federal High Court in Lagos.

The plaintiffs are also seeking a mandamus order compelling President Tinubu and Senate President Godswill Akpabio to remove the alleged APC members from their positions as RECs for the INEC, in accordance with Section 157 of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999.

The plaintiffs are also seeking an order of mandamus directing and compelling President Tinubu to appoint qualified Nigerians who are persons of unquestionable integrity, non-members of a political party, or loyalists to the positions of RECs for the INEC, in accordance with Nigerian Constitution paragraph 14(3)(b)(c), third schedule, and section 156.

The plaintiffs argue in the complaint that the INEC’s position, powers, independence, and the impartiality with which it operates and is seen to be allowed to act are critical to the integrity of Nigeria’s elections and the effectiveness of people’s democratic rights.

The plaintiffs further contend that “INEC should be the primary guarantor of the electoral process’s integrity and purity.” President Tinubu and the Senate have constitutionally mandated independence and impartiality in the nomination and confirmation of INEC top officers.”

“The credibility and legitimacy of elections depend primarily on the independence and impartiality of those appointed to manage the process,” the plaintiffs argue. Nigerians’ democratic rights would be illusory without an independent and fair INEC.”

According to the plaintiffs, “Anyone appointed as REC must clearly be non-partisan, independent, impartial, and neutral.” The INEC officers should be able to carry out their lawful responsibilities and implement the Electoral Act without fear or favor.”

They also contend that “Nigeria’s electoral body must be free of direction or control, whether from the government or any other source.” It must be held accountable to the voters and act accordingly.”

Joined in the suit as defendants are the INEC; Mr Godswill Akpabio, for himself and on behalf of the Senate; and Messrs Etekamba Umoren; Isah Shaka Ehimeakne; Anugbum Onuoha; and Bunmi Omoseyindemi. No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

The suit filed on behalf of the plaintiffs by their lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Andrew Nwankwo, read in part: “As public officers, President Tinubu and Mr Godswill Akpabio, are required to act in conformity with their oath of offices and the letter and spirit of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended].

“Treating INEC as a line department accountable to bureaucratic higher-ups and high-ranking politicians rather than as an independent and impartial body is antithetical to constitutional and international standards and the notion of the rule of law.

“The use of the word, ‘non-partisan’ means that those to be appointed to conduct credible elections must not be people, who openly identify as belonging to a political party, whose occupation is politics or who are perceived by ordinary Nigerians as having political biases.

“Section 153(1) (f) of the Nigerian Constitution provides that there shall be established for the Federation the Independent National Electoral Commission.

“Section 156(1) of the Nigerian Constitution provides among others that, in the case of the Independent National Electoral Commission, the person to be appointed as a REC, shall not be a member of a political party.

“Paragraph 14 of the third schedule of the 1999 Constitution provides among others that ‘a member of INEC shall be non-partisan, and a person of unquestionable integrity; that a REC shall be a person of unquestionable integrity and shall not be a member of any political party.’….

“Under Section 6(4) of the Electoral Act 2022, the appointment of a REC shall be in compliance with section 14 (3) of the Constitution.

“The nomination, confirmation and appointment of the alleged APC members as RECs is a breach of section 6(4) of the Electoral Act 2022 and section 156(1)(a) and paragraph 14 of the third schedule of the 1999 Constitution.

“The United Nations Human Rights Committee has stated that states, including Nigeria, should establish independent electoral authorities to supervise the electoral process and to ensure that elections are conducted fairly, impartially, and in accordance with the established laws and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“The African Union’s African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance, to which Nigeria is a state party, also calls upon state parties to establish and strengthen independent and impartial national electoral bodies responsible for the management of elections.

“Those recently appointed as RECs and confirmed by the Senate include an individual who was formerly a member of the PDP before allegedly ‘decamping’ to the APC and who served as the Chief of Staff to Mr. Godswill Akpabio, when he was Governor of Akwa Ibom State.

“The alleged APC member or loyalist also includes an individual who reportedly campaigned on social media for the election of President Tinubu and who was appointed chairman of the Lagos State Traditional Medicine Board in 2001 when Mr. Tinubu governed the state.”

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