Fresh reports reaching the desk of Africa Daily News, New York has revealed that a Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday has finally ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately accept and publish Godswill Akpabio’s name as the candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) for the 2023 Akwa Ibom North/West Senatorial District election.
Delivering the controversial judgment was Justice Emeka Nwite who had held that INEC’s refusal to accept and publish the name of Akpabio, former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs had actually been in contradiction with the law, having received the name from the APC as its valid candidate.
Nwite, who had also revealed that the electoral umpire acted illegally, said the commission lacked the power to have disqualified the 2nd plaintiff (Akpabio).
The suit which had been filed before Nwite marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1011/2022, the APC and Akpabio are 1st and 2nd plaintiffs respectively while INEC is the sole defendant and it had been revealed that Justice Nwite found that Akpabio was validly nominated as the Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District candidate of the APC from the primary conducted by the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) on June 9, 2022.
The judge declared that INEC “is bound by the provisions of Section 29 (3) of the Electoral Act to publish only the personal particulars of the candidate of the first plaintiff for the Akwa Iborn North West Senatorial District elections in the person of the second plaintiff (Akpabio) as received from the first plaintiff.
The judge also declared that INEC cannot publish any other name or particulars of any other candidate as the candidate of the APC for the senatorial district elections, “except as nominated, submitted and received from the first plaintiff (APC).”
Justice Nwite rejected INEC’s claim that it declined to monitor the primary conducted by APC on June 9, which produced Akpabio as the party’s candidate, because it had monitored the one conducted on May 27.
The judge faulted INEC for electing to monitor the May 27 primary conducted by an illegal faction of the party led by Augustine Ekanem as against the June 9 primary conducted by the APC NWC, an organ of the party authorised by law to conduct such primaries.
Justice Nwite said: “I am of the view that the defendant (INEC) cannot choose and impose a candidate on a political party.
“The fact that INEC chose to monitor an illegal primary and produced a report, cannot give it legitimacy.
“INEC cannot unilaterally pronounce a primary conducted by a political party or a candidate submitted to it as invalid, without a valid court order,” the judge said.
He held that there is no law empowering INEC to refuse to accept and publish the name of a candidate sent to it by a political party without an order from the court.
“The consequences of the defendant’s (INEC’s) failure to monitor the legal primary conducted on June 9 by the first plaintiff, cannot be visited on the plaintiffs.
“The defendant lacks the vires to usurp or assume the power of the court to disqualify a candidate,” he said.
The judge noted that it was not in doubt that there were two (2) primaries conducted by the APC for the Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District; one by the NWC of the APC, and the other by Augustine Ekanem, an illegal factional chairman of the APC in the state.