Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano
In what can be described as the usurpation of the powers of the election tribunal, a federal high court in Kano has nullified the candidature of all Abia Labour Party’s candidates in the February 25 and March 18 general election on the grounds that LP did not comply with provisions of the 2022 Electoral Act. The judge however did not make any consequential order for issuance of certificate of return to candidates of other parties.
Mr. Alex Otti, governor-elect of Abia State, was the LP candidate in the governorship election in Abia. Otti was declared winner of the governorship election by INEC, having scored 175,467 votes to beat his closest rival, Okey Ahiwe, of the Peoples Democratic Party, who scored 88,529 votes. LP also won 10 seats in Abia House of Assembly.
Justice Mohammed Yunusa gave the ruling Thursday in a suit filed by Ibrahim Haruna Ibrahim (Plaintiff) against the LP (1st Defendant) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (2nd Defendant). The judge also nullified the candidature of all Kano LP flag bearers in the general election.
The 1999 constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Act prescribed the manners in which election disputes can be resolved, vesting the powers in election petition tribunals. The tribunals are Governorship Election Petition Tribunal; National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly Election Tribunal, and the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal. There is also the Area Council Election Petition Tribunal for the FCT councils.
All the election petitions tribunals have been constituted in all the states and election disputes are currently being heard by the various tribunals. Justice Yunusa’s judgement has therefore raised a question of jurisdiction of the federal high court sitting in Kano exercising power on election petition.
Ibrahim (plaintiff) was challenging the candidature of LP flagbearers in Kano and the 35 states and FCT on grounds that LP did not comply with the provisions of the 2022 Electoral Act which prescribed that parties must submit register of members to INEC 30 days before election.
Justice Yunusa ruled that LP did not submit the register of its members in the 36 states of the federation to INEC in compliance with the Electoral Act, and due to the non-compliance with the Act, the votes cast for all the candidates of the LP in Kano and Abia states were therefore wasted.
The judge further held that “the fundamentally flawed Primary Elections” of the party could not have then produce a qualified candidate that participated in the General Elections as held on the 25th of February, 2023 and 18th of March, 2023 respectively for all the elective positions in Kano State and Abia State.”
He however said since the candidates that participated in the Abia election were not parties before the court, he lacked the jurisdiction to make an order for the issuance of certificate of return to them.
“The candidates that participated in the election in Abia are not parties before this court as such the court lacks the jurisdiction to make an order for the issuance of Certificate of Return to them. They are however at liberty to seek the said redress in the appropriate Division of the Court”, the judged ruled.
Justice Yunusa said, “That the failure of the 1st Defendant (Labour Party) to submit its register of members in Kano state and Abia state is in crass breach of the provisions of section 77(3) of the Electoral Act, 2022 and the purported primary elections of the 1st defendant is invalid, null and void and of no effect.”
“That the fundamentally flawed primary elections of the 1st defendant (Labour party) as a result of failure to comply with the mandatory provisions of section 77(2) and (3) cannot produce a qualified candidate that participated in the General Elections as held on the 25th of February, 2023 and 18th of march, 2023 respectively for all the elective positions in Kano state and Abia state.
“That the void Primary Elections of the 1 Defendant cannot produce eligible candidates to be sponsored by the 1 Defendant in the General Election and the participation of the candidates of the 1st Defendant in the election in Kano State and Abia State is of no moment and waste of time.
“That the votes cast for all the candidates of the 1st defendant in Kano state and Abia state in the general elections of 2023 are wasted votes.
“A party that has not complied with the provisions of Section 77(2) (3) cannot be said to have candidate in an election and cannot be declared the winner of the election this being so, the vote credited to alleged candidates of the first defendants are wasted votes as per the decision of the Supreme Court.”
See full Judgement Order