By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
Justice Folashade Ogunbiyi-Giwa of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Thursday held that the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC was wrong to have disqualified candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the November 16 governorship election in Kogi State.
Justice Ogunbanjo-Giwa in a judgment delivered held that INEC has no power to disqualify any candidate for an election as it is the exclusive preserve of a competent court of law.
According to the judge, the provisions of sections 31(1) and 83 of the Electoral Act which holds that INEC cannot disqualify or reject candidate nominated by a political party for an election is aimed at ensuring that it does not lie within the executive realms of INEC to determine who participate in an election.
The Judge disclosed that the intention of the law is to make INEC a true unbiased umpire.
Justice Ogunbanjo-Giwa accordingly granted reliefs 1 to 7 of the plaintiffs and ordered INEC to include the names of the governorship and deputy governorship candidate of the SDP as well as the party’s logo on the ballot in the November 16 governorship poll in Kogi State.
The governorship candidate of the SDP, Barrister Natasha Akpoti, her running mate Adams Khalid and SDP had approached the court to challenge their exclusion from the 2019 Kogi State governorship election by INEC.
The commission had refused to accept the candidature of Khalid in replacement of the earlier nominated deputy governor, Mohammed Yakubu on the grounds that Yakubu was not qualified in the first place to be fielded as a deputy governorship candidate in the election on account of his age.
But the plaintiffs in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1129/2019 and filed on October 3 by their lawyer, Ola Olanipekun SAN, sought a declaration of the court that INEC’s declaration vide a letter with reference number: LEG/PP/23/T/107 that the nomination of Mohammed Yakubu as the Deputy Governor of the SDP in the November 16 gubernatorial election is “invalid” on the grounds of qualification is ultra vires the statutory powers of INEC and it’s therefore null and void.
The court in the judgment set aside the letter of the electoral body as null and void having been issued in utter breach of the law.
INEC was ordered to accept and recognize the candidates of the party for the forthcoming gubernatorial election.
The electoral body was barred from giving any further effect to the purported exclusion of the party and its candidates in the governorship election.
Shortly after judgment, thunderous jubilations rented the air at the court premises from about two thousand supporters and followers of the candidate who escorted her to court for the judgment.
It was observed that the security agents had a hectic time at the court gate controlling the crowd that came from Okene to witness the proceeding.