•Restrained from conducting by-elections into Edo Assembly
Omololu Ogunmade and Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed January 25 for the conduct of all the rerun elections ordered by various Election Petitions’ Tribunals in 28 federal and state constituencies, spanning 11 states of the federation.
Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, announced the date yesterday in Abuja after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari along with the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu.
However, Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, has restrained INEC from conducting fresh elections to replace 14 members-elect of the Edo State House of Assembly, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit against the leadership of the legislature.
At the meeting Yakubu and Adamu held with the president, Buhari spoke of his commitment to entrench a credible electoral process and charged the INEC chairman and the IG to ensure that this determination is guaranteed.
Answering questions from State House reporters after the meeting, Yakubu said the rerun elections were to fill vacant seats in both the National Assembly and state legislatures following the cancellations of some elections by the tribunals.
He added that the tribunals voided a total of 30 elections into both the federal and state legislatures, out of which two had already been conducted while the rerun polls into the others would hold on January 25.
The INEC chairman said the commission was prepared for the conduct of the polls, adding that the president charged him and the IG to conduct free and fair polls and ensure that adequate security is provided.
“It is essentially on the conclusion of all the litigations with respect to all the national and state houses of assembly elections arising from the 2019 general election.
“So far, 30 elections were nullified by courts orders. Some in whole state constituencies, others in pockets of constituencies. We have conducted two elections in these elections – Kogi West and Ajaokuta federal constituencies.
“We have 28 elections outstanding, spread across 11 states of the federation, and the commission has already fixed 25th of January – that is, in the next 19 days, for the conduct of the court-ordered rerun elections and we are ready for these elections,” he stated.
He added the president met with him along with the IG to iron out the security aspect of the rerun elections.
On his part, Adamu said the federal government wanted to ensure the country had “a free and fair election process that is equal to none in terms of example that could be given to the world.”
According to him, for this desire to be achieved, there must be a secured environment, which could be guaranteed by the review of the previous election process.
He committed the police to provide adequate security on January 25, warning that the agency would not tolerate violence and all forms of electoral crimes during the rerun polls.
A statement issued after the meeting by one of the president’s spokesmen, Mr. Femi Adesina, said the president in pursuit of his resolve to entrench a free, fair and credible electoral process, told the commission to ensure that the game was played by the rules, without fear or favour.
“Those that you declare as winners must be the candidates that the people have chosen. Democracy is about free will, and the will of the people must be allowed to prevail. Get your acts right, and leave no room for underhand tricks or manipulation,” he quoted him as saying.
Adesina added that the president also told the police to secure the electoral process, without bias or favouritism.
“Our elections must be done in violence-free atmosphere. The process must be free, fair, decent, devoid of intimidation or malpractices. It is the duty of the police to accomplish that and it is what I expect in the elections immediately ahead, and going forward,” Buhari was further quoted.
Court Restrains INEC from Conducting By-elections into Edo Assembly
Also yesterday, Justice Mohammed restrained INEC from conducting fresh elections to replace the 14 members-elect of Edo State House of Assembly, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit against the leadership of the house.
The restraining order was sequel to a motion ex-parte filed by the members-elect.
The legislators-elect who instituted the legal action include: Victor Edoro, Washington Osifo, Vincent Uwadiae, Kingsley Ugabi, Michael Ohio-Ezomo, Sunday Aghedo and Chris Okaeben.
Others are: Crosby Eribo, Aliyu Oshiomhole, Oshomah Ahmed, Ganiyu Audu, Ugiagbe Dumez, Uyi Ekhosuehi and Eric Okaka.
They had approached the court, seeking an order of interim injunction restraining INEC from conducting by-elections in respect of their seats purportedly declared vacant by the House Speaker, Hon. Frank Okiye, on December 4, 2019, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
The suit dated December 10, 2019, has as respondents Okiye and INEC as first and second defendants respectively.
Delivering ruling in the ex-parte motion filed by Damian Dodo (SAN), on behalf of the 14 lawmakers, Justice Mohammed ordered that parties in the suit should not take any further steps pending the determination of the motion before the court.
The judge had at the last hearing ordered the first and second defendants to appear before the court on December 19 to show cause why the interim injunction being sought by the plaintiffs should not be granted.
Mohammed also ordered that the enrolled order to show cause, motion ex-parte for interim injunction, motion on notice for interlocutory injunction and the originating processes should be served on the respondents.
The judge ordered that hearing notices be issued on the respondents, and adjourned the matter till December 19 for Okiye and INEC to appear and show cause.
Although the court did sit at the next adjourned date (December 19, 2019) parties in the suit were given January 7, 2020 for further proceeding.
When the matter was called yesterday, counsel to the applicants, Ikhide Ehighelua, reminded the court about the motion ex-parte filed on December 10, 2019.
Responding, INEC’s lawyer, Femi Adeyemi, though acknowledged that the commission was served with all the processes, including the enrolled order, he said it was not served with the motion ex-parte.
Adeyemi, who told the court that INEC’s position on the matter was to be neutral, said the electoral umpire did not oppose the application filed by the plaintiffs.
Justice Mohammed held that INEC having decided not to oppose the applications filed by the lawmakers, the commission should restrain itself from taking further step since the matter was still pending in court.
Justice Mohammed in addition ordered INEC to file an affidavit in support of its position and to show cause why the interim injunction should not be granted before the next adjourned date.
Justice Mohammed, who ordered that the 1st defendant, Mr. Okiye, who was not represented in court, be issued with the hearing notice, adjourned the matter till January 28.