Elisha Abbo, a senator representing Adamawa North Senatorial District, has claimed that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) lacks the power to nullify results that have already been declared by the commission.
Abbo is a senator under the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
Abbo made this claim in a Channels TV interview on Monday, April 17, 2023, in reference to the supplementary governorship elections held in Adamawa state on April 15, 2023.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Adamawa state, on April 16, declared the candidate of the APC, Aishatu Dahiru, popularly known as Binani, winner of the supplementary governorship election in the state.
However, INEC immediately nullified the REC’s action, noting that he lacked the powers to declare the result of the election.
Abbo quoted the provisions of section 149 of the Electoral Act 2022 to validate the action of the REC. In the interview, he was challenged by the anchor of the program, but he maintained his stand that INEC does not have such power.
CLAIM: INEC lacks the power to nullify results that have already been announced.
Verification: Sections 64(4) and 65 of the Electoral Act 2022, and Part 3 of INEC Guidelines on Elections vests the power to collate and announce results solely on the collation officer or the returning officer for that election.
Under section 65, it is provided that “the Commission shall have the power within seven days to review the declaration and return where the Commission determines that the said declaration and return was not made voluntarily or was made contrary to the provisions of the law, regulations and guidelines, and manual for the election.”
Section 149 of the Electoral Act (which was relied upon by Abbo) gives validity to any defect or error made by any INEC official until otherwise challenged by a competent court of law or by a Tribunal.
Section 149 provides thus: “notwithstanding any other provisions of this Act, any defect or error arising from any actions taken by an official of the Commission in relation to any notice, form or document made or given or other things done by the official in pursuance of the provisions of the Constitution or of this Act, or any rules made thereunder remain valid, unless otherwise challenged and declared invalid by a competent court of law or tribunal”.
However, section 149 can only be relied upon where the action taken by the commission was legally and validly made in the first instance.
In this circumstance, the provision cannot stand as the REC lacked the legal power to announce or declare results in the first place. This is because the declaration of results is the sole power and constitutional responsibility of the collation officer or the returning officer.
The claim that INEC cannot nullify results that have already been announced is false. Section 65 of the Electoral Act gives the commission the power to review the declaration and return where the commission determines that the said declaration and return were made contrary to the provisions of the law. The announcement by the REC is therefore contrary to the provisions of the law, and can be nullified by INEC.