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Saturday, November 2

Kogi guber: SDP candidate knows fate November 7

Two weeks to the governorship election in Kogi State, the Federal High Court in Abuja has fixed November 7 to rule on a suit filed by the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Natasha Akpoti, challenging her exclusion from the November 16 election.

Justice Folasade Ogunbanjo-Giwa fixed the date for judgement after taking arguments from lawyers in the matter on Thursday.

Ms Akpoti, her deputy, Adams Khalid and the SDP had approached the court to challenge their exclusion from the 2019 Kogi State governorship election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The electoral umpire had refused to accept the nomination of Khalid in replacement of the earlier nominated running mate, Mohammed Yakubu.

Yakubu was replaced on the grounds that he was not qualified to run as a deputy governorship candidate 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, are seeking a declaration of the court that INEC’s declaration is ultra vires the statutory powers of INEC and is therefore null and void.

The plaintiffs, in addition, asked the court to declare that the refusal of INEC to recognize Yakubu as the substituted deputy governorship candidate of SDP in the forthcoming gubernatorial election in the state, is unlawful and unconstitutional.

“A declaration that the purported rejection and or disqualification of the nominated candidates of the SDP for any reason whatsoever is ultra vires the duties, powers and responsibility of the defendant”.

“An order setting aside the defendant’s Letter Ref: INEC/LEG/PP/23/T/107 and Letter Ref: |NEC/LEG/PP/23/T/IO9, addressed to the Chairman of the third Plaintiff, same being unconstitutional, null and void ab initio.

They also asked for an order of the court to restrain INEC from giving effect to its decision to reject/disqualify the first and second Plaintiffs, as the Governorship and Deputy Governorship Candidates of the state.

“An order of mandatory injunction that the Defendant should place the names of the first and second plaintiffs on its list of candidates for the 2019 Kogi State governorship election and further place the name and logo of the third Plaintiff on the ballot paper for the 2019 Kogi State Governorship Election.”

The lawyer representing Ms Akpoti, Khalid and the SDP, Olanipekun, in his argument submitted that the duty of disqualification of any candidate in an election is that of the court and not INEC.

Olanipekun further argued that the rejection of the substitute was unlawful because it was made 45 days before the governorship election.

The senior lawyer added that the substitution was a sequel to a voluntary withdrawal of the first nominated deputy governorship candidate, whose letter of withdrawal was forwarded to INEC.

But the lawyer to INEC, Tanimu Inuwa, in a counter to the motion, said that the plaintiffs in a letter dated September 19 and addressed to INEC chairman, admitted that the first deputy governor nominee was not qualified to contest the election on account of his age and urged the court to dismiss the suit.

After listening to the arguments of both lawyers, Justice Ogunbanjo-Giwa fixed November 7 for judgment.

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