By Chris Onuoha
The High Court in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to expunge the name of the candidate, representing the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Okigwe South Federal Constituency, comprising Ehime Mbano, Obowo and Ihitte Uboma local government areas of Imo State in the rescheduled February 23, 2019 National Assembly election.
This effectively dashes the hope of Hon. Chike Okafor, who is flying the flag of APC in the elections, from returning to the National Assembly.
The presiding judge, Justice Bello Kawu, gave the order while ruling on a suit brought before the court by Mrs. Uzoma Chioma Mary Ann against the APC and two others, asking it to declare as unconstitutional, illegal, null and void the primary election conducted for the federal constituency; and not to recognize any candidate from the APC for Okigwe South Federal Constituency seat.
Delivering his judgement, Justice Kawu said APC did not conduct primary for the House of Representatives seat for Okigwe South Federal Constituency and, therefore, should not be allowed to field any candidate in the 2019 ballot for the office.
He said having considered the case of the plaintiff and all authorities cited by the learned counsel, he was of the strong view that the question that calls for determination by the honourable court was whether proper procedure was followed for selection or nomination of the APC candidate for Okigwe South Federal Constituency.
The court, which cited relevant sections of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and the APC constitution, said notwithstanding the provision of the Act or rules of political party, “an aspirant who complains that any of the provisions of the Act and the guideline of a political party has not been complied with in the selection or nomination of a political party for election, may apply to the Federal High Court as or the High Court of a state for redress”.
Justice Kawu added that the APC guidelines stipulated the electoral process that should be adopted for the primaries, which he said was not complied with by the party during the primary election for Okigwe South Federal Constituency.
He quoted Justice Onnneghen in Mato vs Hember and two others (2017) that “it is trite that where a statute provides for means of doing a thing, no other means or manners shall be emitted. Both the Electoral Act and the constitution of the first defendant make it mandatory that primaries be conducted in the headquarters of the constituency. The failure to comply with this provision makes the entire exercise null and void”.
The judge, who noted that the defendants neither showed any appearance nor were they represented by counsel, frowned that the defendants did not deem it fit to file a counter affidavit, a development he said was admission to the averments.
In conclusion, the court said it was his answer to the question raised that the APC has not complied with its constitution, the Electoral Act 2010 and the guideline for nomination of candidate for Okigwe South Federal Constituency in Imo State. “It is therefore my declaration that the final report of the Electoral Appeal Panel which recommended the nomination and submission of the 2nd defendant’s name as the House of Representatives Candidate of the 1st defendant for Okigwe South Federal Constituency of Imo State is inappropriate, unlawful, null and void for failure to comply with the 1st defendant’s guideline for nomination of candidate.
The court thereby restrained INEC from further recognising, accepting or listing the name of the 2nd defendant as the candidate of APC in the 2019 ballot paper for Okigwe South Federal Constituency because the APC did not conduct primary election for the office.