Davidson Iriekpen in Lagos and Alex Enumah in Abuja
A governorship aspirant in Kogi State, Natasha Akpoti, has filed a suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja, praying for the disqualification of Governor Yahaya Bello as a candidate in the forthcoming November 16 governorship election in the state.
Akpoti who is the Social Democratic Party (SDP) governorship candidate in the state, in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/122/2019 filed yesterday, anchored her prayer on Bello’s alleged double registration as a voter.
The plaintiff’s lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), who filed the suit on her behalf, contended that Bello’s act of double registration as a voter grossly violated section 24(e) of the Electoral Act.
Apart from disqualification, the plaintiff also asked the court to bar Bello who is the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the forthcoming poll, from holding public office for 10 years.
She also prayed for another order compelling the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to “thoroughly investigate the act of double registration” and “to immediately prosecute him upon the expiration of his first tenure of office as governor of Kogi State in January 2020”.
Her lawyer, Ozekhome, in the Originating Summons, argued as part of the grounds of the suit, that “by his willful act of making double registration”, Bello as APC’s candidate, “is not a fit and proper persons to be allowed by the 2nd defendant (INEC) to vote or be voted for in the forthcoming Kogi State governorship election, having committed acts of electoral fraud.”
The senior lawyer also maintained that Bello underwent double voter registration as a voter in gross violation of the electoral law, and that INEC had sacked two of its employees who allegedly “aided and abetted Yahaya Bello in his act of double registration as a voter.”
Only Bello’s party, the APC, and the INEC are made defendants.
In the affidavit sworn to by Akpoti, in support of the suit, she said she contested the March 23, 2019 Kogi Central senatorial election but lost.
She noted that she had emerged as the SDP candidate in the forthcoming governorship election in the state but was unjustifiably disqualified by INEC.
She described herself as “an indigene of Kogi State, a legal practitioner, an astute politician, a political reformer, a pro-masses advocate, a philanthropist and one deeply involved in and concerned with the parlous state of affairs of Kogi State people and Nigerians alike.”
Akpoti alleged that Bello first registered as a voter in Abuja in 2011 and procured the second voter registration in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital in May 2017.
She added that as a confirmation of the alleged infraction by Bello, the governor subsequently transferred his Permanent Voter Card from Abuja to Lokoja while the second registration done in Lokoja was still subsisting.
The plaintiff also said INEC had severally threatened to prosecute Bello for the said act of double registration with the commission but failed to take any discernable action in stopping him from contesting the governorship election.
Akpoti stated, “The transfer was carried out and his Permanent Voters Card was issued to him on February 26, 2018, while his second registration at the government house, Lokoja was and is still subsisting.
“That the 2nd defendant had severally threatened to prosecute Mr. Yahaya Bello, the candidate of the 1st defendant for the said act of double registration with the commission (2nd Defendant), but failed to take any discernable action in stopping him from contesting the office of the Governor of Kogi State. Online newspaper publications of the statements of the 2nd defendant to prosecute the candidate of the 1st defendant are herewith attached and collectively marked as Exhibit NAT – 3.”
She therefore sought among other prayers, a declaration by the court that Bello, “has by virtue of his double registration as a voter violated the provisions of section 24(e) of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended”.
She also sought another declaration that Bello “is liable to be disqualified and/or barred from contesting, participating and/or voting in the forthcoming election being organised by the 2nd defendant on account of his wrongful violation section 24(e) of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, which act of violation robs him of the capacity or vires to contest the forthcoming Kogi State governorship election.”
She sought “an order to disqualify or bar” the governor from contesting the forthcoming election “or for any political office for the 10 years pursuant to his violation of the provisions of the section 24(e) of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended.”
The plaintiff also sought “an order of mandamus compelling and or mandating the INEC (the 2nd defendant) to thoroughly investigate the act of double registration” allegedly made by Bello “and to immediately prosecute him upon the expiration of his first tenure of office as governor of Kogi State in January 2020”.
The suit has yet to be assigned to a judge for hearing.