Former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Michael Aondoakaa, SAN, has criticized the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for declaring the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as the winner of the 2023 presidential election. Aondoakaa argued that it was illegal to declare someone President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria when such a person fails to meet the constitutionally required 25% of votes in the Federal Capital Territory.
Speaking on Arise TV at the weekend, Aondoakaa cited a similar case in 2008 in which the Supreme Court interpreted the word "And" conjunctively, making it a mandatory requirement for anyone aspiring to be the President of the Federation. He emphasized that the law has not changed since the case was decided fourteen years ago and that it would be incumbent on the apex court to re-interpret that section of the Constitution again. In his words, "the Supreme Court has a right to defeat their previous decision or stand by it according to the doctrine of Stare Decisis".
Despite the outcry of Nigerians over alleged massive rigging of the electoral process, INEC went ahead to declare Tinubu as the winner of the 2023 presidential election. Aondoakaa criticized the electoral umpire for violating its own guidelines by failing to upload results of the election from the polling units directly to its server.
He stated that the Supreme Court is conscious about a party following its own guidelines and how much more INEC, whose guidelines have a constitutional flavor. He further emphasized that INEC would need to have a good reason to be told to the tribunals why they deviated from their guidelines and must justify that deviating from those guidelines did not invalidate the results.
Aondoakaa contended that INEC decided to change the goalpost in the middle of the game, insisting that this would be a serious issue to justify. He called on the Supreme Court to act in line with its constitutional responsibilities and interpret the relevant section of the Constitution again, adding that the court had the power to defeat its previous decision or stand by it.
The former minister's comments come amid growing concern about the conduct of the 2023 presidential and national assembly elections. There have been reports of widespread vote-buying, ballot box snatching, and violence across the country. The opposition parties have also accused the ruling party of using state resources to manipulate the electoral process in its favor.
Many Nigerians have expressed disappointment and frustration with the outcome of the elections, which they claim lacked transparency and credibility. There have been calls for the establishment of an independent electoral commission and the adoption of electronic voting to ensure free and fair elections in the future.
The Nigerian judiciary has a critical role to play in ensuring the integrity of the electoral process and upholding the rule of law. The Supreme Court, in particular, has the responsibility to interpret the Constitution and resolve disputes arising from elections. It is hoped that the court will act in the best interest of Nigerians and uphold the sanctity of the Constitution.
In conclusion, Aondoakaa's criticism of INEC's decision to declare Tinubu as the winner of the 2023 presidential election highlights the need for electoral reforms in Nigeria. The country needs an independent electoral commission that is free from political interference and capable of conducting free and fair elections.
The judiciary must also be independent and impartial in resolving disputes arising from elections. Only then can Nigeria consolidate its democracy and ensure that the will of the people prevails.
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