Folashade Ogunbiyi-Giwa, the presiding judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday, November 7, 2019, held that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, was wrong to have excluded the candidate of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, in the November 16 governorship election in Kogi State.
Justice Ogunbanjo-Giwa in a judgment held that INEC had no power to disqualify any candidate for an election as it was 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 any candidate nominated by a political party for an election is aimed at ensuring that it does not lie within the executive realm of INEC to determine who participates in an election, adding that the intention of the law is to make INEC a true unbiased umpire.
The judge accordingly granted reliefs 1-7 of the plaintiffs and ordered INEC to include the names of the governorship and deputy governorship candidates of the SDP as well as the party’s logo on the ballot in the November 16 governorship poll in Kogi State.
Natasha Akpoti, her deputy, Adams Khalid, and the 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 in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1129/2019 and filed on October 3, 2019, by their lawyer, Ola Olanipekun, SAN, the plaintiffs 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 was “invalid” on the grounds of qualification was ultra vires and it’s therefore null and void.