By Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Folashade Ogunbiyi-Giwa of the Federal High Court, Abuja, will on November 7, deliver judgment in the suit filed by the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Natasha Akpoti, challenging her exclusion from the forthcoming governorship election in Kogi State.
Justice Ogunbiyi-Giwa fixed the date for judgment after taking submissions of counsel on the propriety or otherwise of the suit.
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 commission had refused to accept the candidature of Khalid in replacement of the earlier nominated deputy governor, Mohammed Yakubu, on the grounds that Yakubu was not qualified in the first place to be fielded as a deputy governorship candidate in the election 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 (SAN), are seeking a declaration of the court that INEC’s declaration vide a letter with reference number: LEG/PP/23/T/107 that the nomination of Yakubu as the deputy governor of the SDP in the November 16 gubernatorial election is “invalid” on the grounds of qualification is ultra vires the statutory powers of INEC and it is therefore null and void.
The plaintiffs in addition prayed the court to declare that the refusal of INEC to recognize Yakubu as substituted deputy governorship candidate of the SDP in the November 16 gubernatorial election in Kogi State is unlawful and unconstitutional ab initio.
“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 defenfant.
“An order setting aside the defendant’s letter with Ref: INEC/LEG/PP/23/T/107 and Letter Ref: |NEC/LEG/PP/23/T/IO9, addressed to the chairman of the 3rd plaintiff, same being unconstitutional, null and void ab initio.
“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendant, its commissioners, officers, staff, agents and privies from giving effect to its decision to reject/disqualify the 1st and 2nd plaintiffs, as the governorship and deputy governorship candidates of the 3rd plaintiff, in the 2019 Kogi State governorship election.
“An order of mandatory injunction that the defendant should place the names of the lst and 2nd plaintiffs on its list of candidates for the 2019 Kogi State governorship election and further place the name and logo of the 3rd plaintiff on the ballot paper for the 2019 Kogi State governorship election,” SDP said.
The counsel to the plaintiffs, Olanipekun, in his argument submitted that the duty of disqualification of any candidate in an election is that of the court and not INEC.
He further argued that the rejection of the substitute was unlawful because it was made 45 days before the governorship election, adding that the substitution was sequel to a voluntary withdrawal of the first nominated deputy governorship candidate, whose letter of withdrawal was forwarded to INEC.
However, in a counter to the motion, INEC represented by Tanimu Inuwa (SAN), disclosed that the plaintiffs in a letter dated September 19 and addressed to the 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.
Justice Ogunbiyi-Giwa after listening to their argument fixed November 7 for judgment.