By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja.
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday nullified and set aside the ward and kocal government congresses purportedly conducted on February 7 by the All Progressives Congress APC in Kogi for the purpose of nominating its governorship candidate for the November governorship election.
The court voided the two congresses on the grounds that they were not conducted in compliance with the Electoral Act 2022, and the constitution of the party.
Delivering judgment in a suit instituted by a group of aggrieved APC members led by Realwan Okpanachi, Justice James Omotosho barred the Independent National Electoral commission (INEC) from recognising or using the unlawful delegates list that emanated from the unlawful congresses for the purpose of selecting its governorship flagbearer.
Justice Omotosho while nullifying the purported Ward and Local Government congresses of February 7, ordered APC leadership to conduct fresh ones that would be in compliance section 84 of the Electoral Act, 2022 and section 13 of the Party’s constitution.
In the judgment, Justice Omotosho agreed with the plaintiffs that the APC in Kogi state, failed to conduct Ward and Local Government congresses as stipulated by relevant provisions of the law.
Among others, the Judge agreed with Chief Ogwu James Onoja SAN, counsel to the plaintiffs, that the APC breached section 84 of the Electoral Act and section 13 of its own constitution by concocting purported list of delegates and submitting same to INEC without the knowledge of registered members of the party in the state.
The judge held that during the trial of the case, the APC failed to disclose the venues and time where the purported Ward and Local Government congresses were held and also failed show the report of INEC officials that purportedly monitored the elections.
Similarly Justice Omotosho held that the APC failed to produce the result sheet to show the scores recorded by the participants in the purported Ward and Local Government congresses.
Besides, the judge noted that the major document put at the disposal of the court to justify the conduct of the purported February 7 congresses, did not contain a single name of any human being but signatures of imaginary participants at the purported congresses.
With the absence of names on the documents, the judge held that the exhibit was worthless and that no probate value can be attached to it, because it runs foul of section 133 of the Evidence Act.
The court, therefore, ordered APC to conduct special Ward and Local Government congresses in line with the provisions of the relevant laws, especially section 84 of the Electoral Act and section 13 of the APC’s Constitution.
Earlier, the judge had dismissed the preliminary objections raised by APC that the court had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit and that the plaintiffs have no locus standi to file it, while at the same time insisted that the cause of action was its internal affairs.
Justuce Omotosho while dismissing the preliminary objection held that APC must conduct its affairs in accordance with the laws, adding that impunity as exhibited in the instant case, will lead to anarchy.
The judge also dismissed the claims of the APC that the plaintiffs are not Its members but parading old membership cards, adding that the party ought to have made its membership register available to the court to dispute the membership claim of the plaintiffs.
Plaintiffs in the suit with number FHC/ABJ/CS/329/2023 are Realwan Okpanachi, Yahaya Saidu Nuhu, Omaonu Clement Arome, Mustapha Ibrahim Idoko, Aku Umar Goodman and Abu Steven Okpanachi Onechiojo, while APC and INEC are 1st and 2nd defendants respectfully.