The Court of Appeal, Lagos division, has overturned a decision made by the Federal High Court that required the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to electronically upload election results from polling units directly to the Results Viewing Portal (IReV).
A three-judge panel, including Justice Abubakar Umar, Justice Olukayode Bada, and Justice Onyekachi Otisi, asserted that the law grants INEC extensive discretionary powers to determine the method of transmitting election results.
The court’s judgment, delivered on July 19 characterized the lawsuit filed by the Labour Party (LP) at the lower court as an abuse of the judicial process.
On March 8, 2023, the LP, along with its gubernatorial candidate in Lagos, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, and 41 others obtained a mandamus order from Justice Peter Lifu of the Federal High Court in Lagos, compelling INEC to follow the Electoral Act and its guidelines for conducting elections.
This order directed INEC to enforce Clauses 37 & 38 of the Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Governorship and State Houses of Assembly Elections in Lagos State. These clauses required polling unit presiding officers to conspicuously display result posters after completing the EC8A result sheet. The order also mandated the electronic transmission of polling unit results and a scanned copy of the EC8A to INEC’s IReV immediately after all polling units had completed voting.
The judgment also instructed INEC to adhere to Section 27(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 when distributing electoral materials by engaging non-partisan, independent, and dependable logistics companies.
Displeased with the decision, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) sought permission to appeal the judgment and subsequently submitted their notices of appeal as interested parties.
The APC, represented by a legal team led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), stated that despite not being a party to the lawsuit, it felt compelled to appeal the decision due to its potential impact on the party’s interests as a sponsor in the same elections, along with the SDP.
The Appellate Court highlighted that the LP, Rhodes-Vivour, and the other respondents failed to engage with the APC’s brief despite being served with it.
The court’s decision was based on the understanding that the Electoral Act 2022, sections 50(2) and 60(5), as well as paragraph 15(a) of the third schedule to the 1999 Constitution, grant INEC broad discretionary powers to determine the method of result transmission. The court emphasized that the issuance of an order of mandamus cannot limit this discretion.
The Court of Appeal also cited a previous judgment by Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which affirmed INEC’s authority to specify the method of transmitting results.
The appellate court ruled in favor of the APC, finding merit in the appeal and categorizing the suit filed in Lagos as an abuse of the legal process