By Vivian Okejeme
The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja yesterday ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) to include the Governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) Natasha Akpoti and his running mate, Adams Khalid in the November 16 governorship election in Kogi State.
Akpoti is before Justice Folashade Ogunbiyi-Giwa, challenging the excluding of her party from the said election.
The judge, had in the judgement, held that the electoral empire was wrong to have disqualified candidate of the SDP
Justice Giwa held that INEC has no power to disqualify any candidate for an election as it is the exclusive reserve of a competent court of law.
She premised on the strength 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.
The sections, according the judge, aimed at ensuring that it does not lie within the executive realms of INEC to determine who participate in an election, adding that the intention of the law is to make INEC a true unbiased umpire.
The judge 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, his 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 counseln, 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 is therefore null and void.
“The letter written by INEC is hereby set aside, as null and void having been issued in utter breach of the law.
“The INEC is ordered to accept and recognize the candidates of the SDP for the forthcoming gubernatorial election.
“The INEC is hereby barred from giving any further effect to the purported exclusion of the party and its candidates in the governorship election”, the court held.