The presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the 2023 election, Peter Obi, has accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of bias.
Obi, in a reply he filed before the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC), faulted the electoral body for submitting a preliminary objection in support of the president-elect and candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu.
According to Obi, both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal had in the past, cautioned INEC not to place itself “in a position where imputation of partiality in favour of one party against one will be levelled against it.”
Faulting INEC, Obi, who came third in the February 25 election, recalled that the apex court had in the case of Attorney General of the Federation V. Abubakar (2007) 10 NWLR (Pto 1041), emphasised that the electoral commission must not only embrace neutrality as its watchword but “must always remain fair and focused.”
“The 1st Respondent, forgetting its role as an electoral umpire, gave a Notice of Preliminary Objection to challenge the alleged incompetence of the Petition.
“The global best practice for electoral umpires in national elections is that an electoral body must avoid creating the impression that it has no respect for neutrality in an electoral contest between candidates,” Obi said.
“Therefore, it is not only an embarrassment but a repudiation of the duty of the 1st Respondent when it adorns the garb of a contestant in an election it conducted as an umpire to raise preliminary objection against an Election Petition as in the case hereof.
“The expectation is that INEC will maintain a neutral stance in all litigations where participants in elections are challenging the outcome of the elections and not indulge in filing objections to the petition.”