APC: Enang’s Appearance in Court Halts Judgment in Akwa Ibom Guber Tussle
Alex Enumah in Abuja
But for the timely appearance of former Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Ita Enang, in court, the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, would have resolved the issue of listing the name of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2023 governorship election in Akwa Ibom State.
Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court had scheduled to deliver judgment in the suit brought by a factional governorship candidate of the APC seeking an order that will compel the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to publish his name as forwarded by his party to the electoral umpire as the candidate of the APC in the forthcoming election in Akwa Ibom State.
The suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1290/2022, which was filed by the APC and Akanimo Udofia, has INEC as the sole defendant.
The plaintiffs, APC and Udofia, had in the suit argued that INEC cannot refuse to publish the name of a person sent to it as the candidate of a political party.
Amongst the reliefs sought in the suit included an order compelling INEC to publish the name of the candidate sent to it as the candidate of the APC in the Akwa Ibom governorship poll.
The court, after listening to parties in the suit, fixed Thursday, October 6 for judgment.
However, when the matter was called for judgment, Enang drew the attention of the court to his presence as a party seeking to be joined in the matter.
He claimed he would be prejudiced if the court delivered its judgment without hearing him out.
According to him, the process and outcome of the May 26 governorship primary of the APC in Akwa Ibom State is a thing of litigation before a Federal High Court in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
He pointed out that the parties in the Uyo court, as well as the subject matter, are the same as that before the Abuja court.
While disclosing that the Uyo Federal High Court has reserved judgment in the said suit bordering on the APC governorship primary, Enang submitted that the plaintifffs ought not to have filed another suit over the same subject matter with the same parties.
Enang told the court that he made several efforts to see if there was duplicity of the case, including writing personally to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, but only got information on Wednesday’s evening that the court would deliver judgment in a similar matter on October 6 and had to rush to the court to protect his interest.
He therefore prayed the court to allow him file his application for joinder to enable him defend his interest.
Responding, Mr Valentine Offia, the plaintiff’s lawyer, informed Justice Nwite that the suit before the Uyo Federal High Court is challenging the validity of the APC primary, while the one before the court in Abuja is challenging the refusal of INEC to publish the list of the APC governorship candidate sent to it by the party.
After listening to the oral argument of Enang, the court held that he should be heard in the interest of justice.
Justice Nwite subsequently ordered him to file a formal application for joinder and served same on all parties in the suit and fixed October 17, for hearing.
Enang had sought the nullification of the APC’s primary as well as the nullification of the candidacy of Udofia on the grounds that the May 26 primary did not comply with the provisions of the law and guidelines of the APC.
He further claimed that Udofia’s nomination as the candidate of the APC was unlawful having not been a member of the APC when the party’s primary was held on May 26.
He also prayed the court to restrain INEC from accepting the name of Udofia as the candidate of the APC in the 2023 Akwa Ibom governorship poll.
Following the legal action, INEC declined to publish the name of any person as the candidate of the APC for the Akwa Ibom governorship election, a situation which warranted the suit at the Abuja court.
APC and Udofia are arguing that INEC does not have the statutory powers to refuse to publish the name of its candidates in the governorship poll.
While APC is asking the court to publish the name of Udofia as sent to it as the candidate of the party, Udofia on his part is asking the court to restrain INEC from publishing any other names except his as the candidate of the APC in the Akwa Ibom governorship poll.