A Federal High Court, Abuja, Thursday held that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) lacks the power to disqualify the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the November 16 governorship election in Kogi State.
Thus, the coast has been cleared for the SDP candidate to contest the election.
Justice Folashade Ogunbiyi-Giwa in a judgment held that INEC was wrong to have excluded the governorship candidate as it is only a competent court of law that can disqualify a candidate.
She said it was the exclusive right of a court of law that can determine who qualifies to contest election and not th
She held that 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 was aimed at ensuring that it does not lie within the executive realms of INEC to determine who participates 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, 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 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 is 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 recognise 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.