The Court of Appeal in Lagos has annulled the Federal High Court judgment which required INEC to upload the governorship and state house of assembly election results from the polling units directly to the IReV portal.
The three-man panel of Justice, Justice Abubakar Umar, Olukayode Bada, and Onyekachi Otisi collectively established that the legislation grants INEC immense discretion to determine an appropriate way to deliver election results.
The Labour Party’s court action, which resulted in the appeal, was deemed an exploitation of the judicial system by the panel.
On March 8, 2023, the Labour Party, with its governorship candidate Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour and 41 other individuals, succeeded in obtaining an order of mandamus from Justice Peter Lifu at the Federal High Court in Lagos to compel INEC’s compliance with both the Electoral Act and its accompanying regulations for organizing the elections.
Not content with the ruling, both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) made their intentions known to appeal the decision and consequently filed their notices as interested parties.
The APC declared that, although not a party to the case, it still decided to appeal against the judgment due to its resentment towards the ruling – something that would have an effect on their part in the electoral process as an entrant.
The APC observed that the LP had taken legal action against INEC at the Federal High Court in Abuja, raising similar points and asking for comparable remedies. This matter was then brought to the Lagos division of the court.
The Appellate Court indicated in its ruling that none of the LP, their governorship candidate, or any other respondent submitted a response to any briefs from the APC, despite being allowed to do so.
The court declared that Sections 50(2) and 60(5) of the Electoral Act 2022 grant INEC sweeping discretionary authority to decide how to fulfill its task, including how it transfers voting results from polling stations to a collation site.
Justice Umar asserted that the capacity to formulate a regulation or directive permits the authority to modify it, especially in circumstances that necessitate it or when there is an urgent need.
The appeal court was in agreement with the opinion of the learned judge, ruling that a mandamus order could not be issued to restrict discretion.
The judge declared that the lower court’s order of mandamus could not be justified on the basis that INEC violated its regulations throughout the presidential vote; they argued this matter must be brought before an election tribunal.
The appellate court additionally cited the judgment of Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which was initiated and lost by the LP. They determined that the lawsuit in Lagos constituted a misuse of the court system.
Justice Nwite maintained that INEC was at its discretion in deciding which method to utilize for transmitting the outcome of elections.
The Appeal Court passed an order overruling the decision of P.O. Lifu made on 8th March 2023, about Suit No: FHC/L/CS/370/2023, and dismissed it as an abuse of the court process. Both parties shall cover their respective costs associated with the case.