October 4, 2023

…says Commission should obey court order 

The New Nigerian People’s Party, on Thursday, accused the Independent National Electoral Commission of refusing to replace candidates who defected from the party to other platforms.

The party lamented that despite orders of the Court of Appeal and the Federal High Court in Abuja directing INEC to accept the names of the fresh candidates submitted to it to replace those that withdrew their candidature and resigned from the party, the commission has refused to obey the order, one month to the elections.

The ANPP candidates who left the party but were yet to be replaced by INEC included a former Governor of Kano State, Ibrahim Shekarau (Kano Central Senatorial District), Ibrahim Mikra (Taraba South Senatorial District), Yobe State Deputy governorship candidate of the party, Yahaya Gamaje, and Mohammed Seidu Maikifi (Potiskum Central House of Assembly).

Shekarau’s name had appeared on the INEC final list as NNPP’s senatorial candidate for Kano Central Senatorial District, despite his defection from the party on August 29.

The National Publicity Secretary of ANPP, Major Agbo, accused INEC of playing partisan politics unbecoming of an electoral umpire for not accepting the candidates submitted to it on September 1, 2022, after an earlier one on August 30, 2022.

He said, “We are aware of a grand plot to deliberately sabotage NNPP and deprive our great party of the opportunity to field candidates for these critical positions.

“The party approached the Federal High Court, Abuja Division, on September 12, 2022, by an originating summons on whether upon the proper interpretation of Sections 29(1), 31 and 33 of the Electoral Act 2022, the defendant (INEC) has the constitutional and statutory powers to prevent the Plaintiff NNPP from conducting fresh primaries and replacing their candidates who have voluntarily withdrawn from the race to contest the 2023 general election?

“The NNPP sought an order directing INEC to allow the party to submit the names of all the candidates it wants to replace with those who voluntarily withdrew their candidature for the 2023 general election and publish their names.

“Delivering judgement in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/632/2022, on November 11, 2022, Justice Z  B. Abubakar stated that the candidates who withdrew their candidature and resigned their membership of the plaintiff cease to be the Plaintiff’s candidates/or members as such the defendant (INEC) cannot impose them on the plaintiff, stressing that the action of INEC in imposing those candidates on the NNPP is an assault on the extant provisions of Sections 65(2)(b), 106(d), 177(c) and 187(1) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution which made it mandatory that, for a person to be qualified to contest the election, he must be a member of a political party and sponsored by that political party.

“Justice Abubakar granted the five reliefs sought by the party.

“In a well-calculated effort to frustrate the party, INEC appealed the judgement of the Federal High Court in appeal number CA/ABJ/CV/1295/2022.

“In its judgement delivered on January 3, 2023, by Justice I. B. Gafai, the court declared, “On the whole therefore, both issues having been resolved against the Appellant (INEC), this Appeal ends as one without merit, liable to be and is hereby dismissed. The judgement of the lower court is thus affirmed.”

Justices Hamma Akawu Barka and Muslim Sule Hassan also in the panel dismissed INEC’s appeal as lacking in merit.

“It is this clear judgement and order of the appellate court on January 3, 2023, that INEC has refused to comply with and dissipate energy and resources on a wild goose chase to frustrate NNPP from fielding candidates for these positions. It is unacceptable, unjust and unpatriotic.

“The party demands immediate replacement of its former candidates who voluntarily withdrew from the party as directed by the Court of Appeal. INEC cannot impose candidates on our great party. It is unfair, anti-democratic and impunity of the worst order.

“All lovers of democracy in Nigeria should resist this open defiance to Court of Appeal judgement and order. Nigeria is not a Banana Republic where laws are recklessly subverted by maximum rulers and agencies. INEC is not above the law. It cannot choose which judgement of the court of competent jurisdiction to obey.”

Agbo urged the commission to be mindful of its actions and reactions so as not to derail the electoral process.

According to him, INEC has the enormous task of conducting free, fair and transparent elections to meddle in the internal affairs of a political party in flagrant violation of its mandate.

“Adopting a delay tactic by chasing a wild goose across the country is the height of rascality.

“The nation’s electoral process must be sanitized, strengthened and deepened by all stakeholders.

“INEC must justify the confidence Nigerians reposed in it and do the right thing,” he added.

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