A human rights activist, lawyer and member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Titiloye Charles, filed a lawsuit at the Federal High Court, Akure, the Ondo state capital, over the postponement of Nigeria’s general elections. The defendants in the case are the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Attahiru Jega, and INEC.
The elections, which were originally scheduled for February, have been moved to March and April.
In a statement sent to a correspondent of SaharaReporters in Akure, the plaintiff disclosed that he was asking the court to declare the INEC chairman’s decision to postpone the general elections from February 14 and 28 to March 28 and April 11 respectively as null, void and unconstitutional.
Mr. Charles further urged the court to declare that Mr. Jega compromised INEC’s independence and neutrality by acting and relying on a letter from the National Security Advisor, Sambo Dasuki, who is a political appointee and aide to President Goodluck Jonathan, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Mr. Dasuki, a retired military officer, had proposed the postponement of the elections.
The lawyer said he would want the Federal High Court to interpret section 26 (1) of the Electoral Act and declare that INEC can only postpone election in areas where it is impossible to hold election based on a security situation that is cogent and verifiable.
He maintained that Mr. Jega and INEC wrongfully interpreted and relied on this section to postpone elections throughout Nigeria when only 14 local governments in the three states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa were affected by the alleged unfavorable security situation.
The activist asked the court to declare that INEC is duty bound to verify and ascertain all allegations of security breaches or unsuitability of conduct of election before postponing elections in any part of Nigeria, instead of merely relying on letters or correspondence from persons or authorities that are not under its supervision and control.
He urged the Federal High Court to perpetually restrain all the defendants, jointly and severally, from further relying on unverified correspondence written by persons and authorities outside INEC. He also asked the court to restrain the electoral commission and its officials from taking any other steps unknown to Nigeria’s Electoral Act or constitution.
Mr. Charles argued in his statement of claim that the monitoring of elections is the constitutional duty of the police, the Directorate of Security Services and Civil Defense, adding that these agencies have structures throughout Nigeria and are always available to undertake security tasks in Nigeria irrespective of military operation taking place in 14 local government areas in northeastern Nigeria.
He argued that, based on section 26 (1) of the Electoral Act, Mr. Jega and INEC can only postpone elections in the affected local governments and not the entire country, adding that the local governments embroiled in Islamist violence in the northeast of Nigeria were not up to 3 percent of the country.