INEC’s Power To Return Candidate Dangerous — Wole Olanipekun|Naija News Today

Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, the former President of the Nigeria Bar Association, criticized Section 65 of the Electoral Act 2022 on Wednesday. He thinks that the act is dangerous to the polity and democracy. He spoke in a chat with journalists in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, after a visit to Governor Biodun Oyebanji. He said that the returning officer is not a court of law and is not vested with jurisdiction to exercise quasi-decision or to assume jurisdiction over any matter that is judicial in nature. Section 65(1) of the Electoral Act states that the decision of the returning officer shall be final on any question arising from or relating to unmarked ballot paper, rejected ballot paper, and the declaration of scores of candidates and the return of a candidate. However, the commission shall have the power within seven days to review the declaration and return where the commission determines that the said declaration and return was not made voluntarily or was made contrary to the provisions of the law, regulations, guidelines, and manual for the election. According to Olanipekun, this section of the Electoral Act is novel and dangerous. It empowers a returning officer after returning to review his decision within seven days. He thinks that it is giving a returning officer and, by extension, INEC, the power to do and undo. When you invest in an INEC returning officer, the ability to do and undo, to return and review his decision, is dangerous to the polity. He expressed surprise that the National Assembly allowed that section to creep into the Electoral Act, which they submitted to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), for signing. He called on all stakeholders, particularly the political parties, to monitor INEC and the returning officers so that nothing untoward happens to any party or candidate returning to be revised.

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