With 44 days to the inauguration of newly elected leaders at the federal and state levels on May 29, 557 aggrieved candidates in the 2019 general elections have joined the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the cases they filed before the election petitions tribunals across the country.
The highest number of petitions of 235 came from candidates who vied for offices in the state legislatures followed by the House of Representatives' 202 cases, Senate (88), governorship (29), and the presidential election (three).
A document obtained by LEADERSHIP from INEC showed that as of April 8, 2019, a total of 557 cases were filed in various tribunals with the commission joined as respondent.
A breakdown of the petitions at the state levels showed that Sokoto State has the highest figure of 49, followed by Anambra, Benue, Cross River and Zamfara States with 35 cases each. The next on the chart are Kano 27, Ogun 26, Nasarawa 26, Plateau 24, Bauchi 23, Abia 21, Delta, Imo and Taraba States with 19 each, and Lagos State 16.
Katsina State has the least petitions of two while no case was filed before the tribunal in Jigawa State.
In the presidential election, three court cases were filed against the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The breakdown of the cases as instituted against INEC and other candidates in Abia showed that there are seven for the state assembly, seven for House of Representatives, Senate (three) and governorship (four).
In Adamawa State where 12 petitions were filed, three are for the state House of Assembly, seven for the Lower House of the National Assembly, Senate (two) and none yet against the governorship.
Akwa Ibom State has 12 court cases, one in the House of Assembly, House of Representatives (eight), two for Senate and one against the governorship polls.
A breakdown of the 35 cases in Anambra State revealed that 19 candidates are contesting their defeat in the state assembly polls, House of Representatives (eight), Senate (eight) and governorship none.
In Bauchi State, the House of Assembly tops with nine cases followed by House of Representatives with seven petitions, Senate (seven), and none yet against the governorship race.
There are 10 court cases in Bayelsa State with the House of Assembly having only one petition, House of Representatives (six), and Senate (three). The gubernatorial election will hold on November 2, 2019.
The 21 petitions in Benue State are House of Assembly (eight), House of Representatives (nine), Senate (four), and governorship none yet.
In Borno State, there are seven petitions, with three against the House of Assembly elections, House of Representatives (two), Senate (two), governorship none.
The litigations from Cross River State are 25 - House of Assembly, 10, House of Representatives 10, Senate five, and governorship none.
Delta State has 19 court cases: House of Assembly five, House of Representatives nine, Senate four, and governorship one. Ebonyi State has six cases: House of Representatives three, Senate one, and governorship two.
In Edo State, nine cases have been filed: House of Assembly three, House of Representatives four, and Senate two. The governorship election will hold in 2020.
Ekiti State has five court cases: House of Representatives four, and Senate one. There was no governorship election in the state. The petitions from Enugu State were 12 with the House of Assembly accounting for two, House of Representatives seven, Senate three, and none against the governorship poll.
The FCT has a total of three cases: Senate one and area councils two. Gombe State has seven petitions with only one for House of Assembly, House of Representatives two, Senate one, and governorship four.
The breakdown for Imo State is House of Assembly one, House of Representatives 10, Senate nil, governorship two. Only 12 cases were filed in Kaduna State: House of Assembly two, House of Representatives six, Senate four, and governorship none.
The breakdown of the petitions in Kano State are House of Assembly 16, House of Representatives 11, Senate nil, governorship being awaited. Katsina State has only two petitions: House of Assembly one, House of Representatives nil, Senate nil, and governorship one.
Three cases were filed in Kebbi State with the House of Assembly having two, House of Representatives and governorship one.
Kogi State has 13 court cases: House of Assembly one, House of Representatives nine, and Senate three. The governorship election will hold on November 2 this year. Kwara State has three court cases with the House of Assembly accounting for one, and governorship two.
For Lagos State, there is one House of Assembly case, House of Representatives 11, Senate two, and governorship two. The breakdown for Nasarawa State is House of Assembly, 10, House of Representatives six, Senate six, and governorship four.
From Niger State came five petitions with the House of Assembly leading with three and Senate two.There is none yet for governorship as at the time of this report. Ogun State has 19 House of Assembly petitions, House of Representatives three, Senate three and governorship two.
INEC will defend itself against four cases in Ondo State: House of Assembly one, House of Representatives two, Senate one. In Osun State where there was no governorship election, there are five cases with the House of Assembly accounting for three and House of Representatives two.
The breakdown for Oyo State is House of Assembly, 15, House of Representatives 12, Senate four, and governorship one. In Plateau State, the House of Assembly led with 13, House of Representatives eight, Senate three, and governorship none yet.
Rivers State has only four cases: House of Representatives three, Senate one, and governorship none yet. The breakdown for Sokoto State's 49 court cases is House of Assembly, 36, House of Representatives 10, Senate three, and governorship none yet.
In Taraba State, there are 19 petitions: House of Assembly 11, House of Representatives five, Senate two, and governorship one. The figure for Yobe State is three with two for House of Representatives and Senate one. There is none for governorship at the moment.
The litigations for Zamfara State are House of Assembly, 21, House of Representatives eight, Senate four, and governorship two.
Meanwhile, LEADERSHIP has gathered that INEC voted the sum of N1.9billion for legal fees and payment of external solicitors to handle the 557 cases which it has been joined.
Even though a committee has been set up by the commission to source for both internal and external lawyers to represent it at the tribunals, the sum of N1.796 billion is for professional fees and expenses for external solicitors, and honorarium for the legal officers.
The 2019 INEC Election Project Plan showed that the amount for governorship petition was pegged at N4.5million X 20; senatorial petitions, N3million X 45; House of Representatives N2.7million X105; state House of Assembly, N1.350million X 244 while honorarium for in-house lawyers is seven per cent of the fees payable to external solicitors."
About N6 million is budgeted for pre-election cases. About N26.5 million will be spent on monitoring the hearing of election petitions and appeals across the 36 states of the federation and the FCT while N99.5 million is voted for the compilation and production of the updated electoral legal framework including the code of conduct for external lawyers and staff. A separate N25 million is set aside for the prosecution of electoral offenders.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP, INEC's director, Information, Gender and Voter Education, Barr. Oluwole Osaze Uzzi, said that the commission has set up a legal team to represent it in court.
"The committee is made up of both internal and external lawyers that are representing the commission in the court cases. I don't know their numbers now but we will make it available once all processes have been completed," Uzzi said.
PDP Tackles Commission Over Refusal To Release Electoral Materials
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has berated INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, for refusing to obey the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal's order to release election materials used for the conduct of the February 23 election to the party and its candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, for inspection.
While warning that INEC's action could plunge the country into a monumental crisis, the PDP declared that the electoral body was "blatantly standing in the way of justice and working against the will of the people in their quest to salvage the nation and reclaim their stolen mandate at the tribunal."
It added that the continued refusal of INEC to release the electoral materials to the PDP and its legal team was provocative and accused the commission of working in "cahoots with the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Buhari presidency to frustrate" Atiku from retrieving his mandate at the tribunal.
The PDP in a statement issued yesterday by its national publicity secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said that "INEC and the APC are apprehensive that the materials, particularly the forms EC8D and EC40G covering the nation in addition to the report of the Smart Card Readers used in the presidential election will show at the tribunal that the PDP and Atiku won the presidential election."
The party further alleged that the APC and some compromised top officials of INEC had been boasting that they would never allow "these materials and documents to be released to the PDP legal team.
"This is the reason the APC and INEC manufactured a groundless claim that the form EC8D, EC40G and the reports of the card readers were not specifically captured in the order of the court whereas the court was unequivocal in its order that all materials used for the election be made available to our legal team.
"For the avoidance of doubt, the Court of Appeal, among other orders, directed INEC to release and allow our legal team to 'inspect, scan, forensically audit and make copies of forms EC4OA, EC8A, EC8AVP, EC8B, EC8C, EC8E and all other electoral materials including, but not limited to ballot papers and voters' registers and materials used for the conduct of the presidential election, held across Nigeria on the 23rd of February, 2019, for the purpose of instituting and maintaining an election petition.
"The refusal of INEC to release forms EC8D, EC40G and the reports of the card readers is, therefore, deliberate and vicious disobedience to the orders of the court for which the management of INEC should be charged for contempt," the party said.
Shehu Sani Accuses INEC Of Conspiracy
Also yesterday, the senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District on the platform of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Shehu Sani, accused INEC of conspiracy for hiring Governor Nasir el-Rufai's personal lawyer as its counsel at the election tribunal.
According to the senator, hiring Governor el-Rufai's personal lawyer in a case the governor himself is a party is an attempt to truncate justice.
Speaking with newsmen at his Kaduna residence, the senator, who is challenging the National Assembly election result of March 9, 2019, in which he was a contestant, stated that A.U Mustapha had been Governor el-Rufai's personal lawyer in all of the court cases of the governor, including four cases of defamation filed against him (Sani) by the governor.
"The same lawyer is the one representing el-Rufai in a case between the governor and The Union newspapers, and another case between the governor and the Ahmed Datti of Baze University," Senator Sani said..
He described the National Assembly election as "rigged, fraudulent and marred by massive irregularities and it was geared towards removing some of us and replacing us with their stooges," insisting that the poll was neither free nor fair.
"INEC using el-Rufai's personal lawyer as their counsel is suspicious and my counsel has petitioned the commission even though we are not challenging it in court because it will eat into the 90 days widow of the tribunal.
"We have presented documents to INEC to prove that A.U Mustapha is a personal lawyer to Governor el-Rufai. Why should INEC hire el-Rufai's personal lawyer if the commission knows that all that was done is fair and just?
"My votes at the election was not counted, my votes were suppressed against the principle of fairness and transparency and I will not remain silent to allow injustice prevail. I can tell, beyond reasonable doubt, that I am the winner of the election.
"We are going to challenge with proof the massive fraud, rigging and malpractices that characterised the election in Kaduna State," he stressed.