In a strongly-worded response to the recent verdict of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT), the United Action Front of Civil Society (CSO) has expressed its profound disappointment and rejection of the decision. The CSO, in a press statement issued on Friday, September 8th, 2023, by Olawale Okunniyi (aka Veteran Che), the Head of its National Coordinating Centre, the United Action Front of Civil Society vehemently criticised the tribunal’s judgment, labelling it as a “mere rehearsal of technicalities” that failed to address the fundamental issues of justice and electoral integrity.
The PEPT’s ruling, which effectively declared that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) could disregard its guidelines, has raised concerns within the CSO regarding the credibility of Nigeria’s electoral system. The verdict, which contradicted the expectations of both Nigerians and the international community, was seen as a setback for popular democracy and a potential incentive for future electoral manipulation by INEC.
The CSO expressed its dismay at the PEPT’s failure to hold INEC accountable for its refusal to transmit the results of the presidential polls, despite the simultaneous transmission of results for senate and house of representatives elections using the same device. This discrepancy, the CSO argued, was a clear violation of electoral procedures and guidelines.
Furthermore, the CSO criticised the tribunal for what it perceived as an excessive focus on legal technicalities rather than the pursuit of justice. The CSO pointed out that the prolonged 12-hour judgment did not adequately address the concerns of millions of Nigerian voters, especially first-time voters, whose enthusiasm and faith in the electoral process were seriously undermined by INEC’s actions.
The PEPT’s ruling on the requirement for a presidential candidate to score 25 percent of total votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory was also criticised by the CSO, which saw it as a potential threat to popular democracy and electoral participation.
The United Action Front of Civil Society unequivocally rejected the PEPT’s judgment, describing it as retrogressive and a disservice to the principles of justice and electoral integrity.
In keeping with an earlier-canvassed position by an NGO, The Electoral Hub, the CSO coalition encouraged the petitioners to pursue their quest for justice at the Supreme Court, emphasising the importance of upholding a credible electoral system and democracy.
“We therefore wish to encourage the petitioners to be unrelenting in their resolve to further pursue the cause of justice at the supreme court in the overall interest of credible electoral system and democracy and not necessarily because of their aspiration to be declared winners of the elections,” the statement urged.