March 13, 2023

Benue APC has no guber candidate – Group writes INEC

Benue APC has no guber candidate – Group writes INEC

Fr. Alia

By Peter Duru, Makurdi

A Civil Society group, the Political Justice and Fairplay, PJF, has written the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, insisting on the exclusion of the name of the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Benue state, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia from the list of candidates in next Saturday’s election.

In the letter which was signed by Nura Garba and Musa Ammani and made available to newsmen in Makurdi, the group argued that its position was premised on the ruling of the Court of Appeal which on January 23, 2023 nullified the governorship primary election of APC and ordered a rerun in 11 Local Government Areas, LGAs, of the state.

The group noted that in the said suit by a former governorship aspirant on the platform of the APC, Prof. Terhemba Shija against the APC, its governorship candidate Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia and INEC the appellate court exercised its powers to nullify or uphold the outcome of the disputed primary election wherein it nullified the election in 11 LGAs adding that the rerun carried out by the party after the ruling of the appellate court was a nullity because the 180 constitutional days allowed for a candidate to emerge before the general elections had caught up with the case as provided in section 29(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 as amended.

The group noted that it was in the case of death that a party could be allowed a waiver to produce a candidate outside the specified time.

Part of the letter read, “we humbly draw the attention of Mr. Chairman to the provisions of Section 29 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2022 which mandates every Political Party to within 180 days before the date announced for general election, submit to the Commission, the list of the Candidates the Party proposes to sponsor in an election and who must have emerged from valid primaries conducted by the Political Party.

“Mr. Chairman will observe that the period between the further rerun gubernatorial primary election of the APC for Benue State conducted on February 1 and 2, 2023 to the date of the general elections was less than 180 days and hence a violation of the provisions of Section 29 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2022, and hence the said further re-run gubernatorial primary election of the APC for Benue State conducted on February 1 and 2, 2023 is therefore invalid, null and void and of no effect as the Commission cannot accept the name(s) of any candidate emerging from the said election as to do otherwise will be in contravention of the provisions of Section 29 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2022.

“The said rerun gubernatorial primary election of the APC conducted in Benue State on February, 2, 2023 was just 44 days before the governorship election in Benue State and other States in Nigeria and therefore less than the required mandatory period of at least 180 days for conduct of primary election before the election. The said further re-run primary is caught up for being short of 180 days to the election.

“For this reason INEC lacks the powers by law to reopen its portal to add the name of any candidate of a political party as it is in contravention of section 29(1 ) of the 2022 Electoral Act as amended.

“Recall also that in the Supreme Court ruling between Hyacinth Alia, Prof. Terhemba Shija, APC and INEC delivered on February 16, 2023 by Justice John Inyang Okoro, Justice of the Supreme Court, the two cross appeals of Prof. Shija and Rev. Fr. Alia were dismissed because the counsel to Prof. Shija withdrew the case. Therefore, the supreme court did not issue any judgement.

“Hence by law, the Appeal Court judgement still subsist. APC in Benue State with her governorship candidate cannot appear on the ballot of the 2023 general elections.

“Also the position of the Supreme Court judgement delivered on Wednesday February 1, 2023 in an Appeal No. SC/CV/1564/2022 between Chief David Kente Vs Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, APC and INEC (2023) LPELR-59743 (SC), Justice Kudirat Motonmori Olatunko Kekere-Ekun stated clearly that no court has the power to order for a rerun within 14 days because of the 180 days time constraint before general elections. The judgement also applies to the Benue APC rerun primaries because the 180 constitutionally allowed days caught up with the process. For this reason INEC must obey section 29 subsection 1 of the 2022 Electoral Act as amended.”

Responding however, the Director of Communications, Alia/Ode Gubernatorial Campaign  Organisation, Mr. Kula Tersoo described the petition as laughable, saying “at no time was Father Alia’s name removed from INEC portal.

“There was no valid order suggesting or ordering for his name to be removed from INEC portal. Was INEC supposed to do it in isolation and in a vacuum? There was no order to that effect.

“Secondly, if 180 days had caught up with the case, who is supposed to benefit since Father was not the one that took them to court? Whose case would have been useless? They are merely groaning because they have been beaten.”