From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State and his People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have asked the Abuja division of the Federal High Court to stop the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) from accepting and publishing the names of the Governorship and Senatorial Candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as persons sponsored by the party for the 2023 general election in the state.
In multiple suits filed before the court, Governor Ortom, the PDP and its governorship and senatorial candidates are challenging the credibility of the APC direct primary election that produced its candidates for the forthcoming 2023 polls.
In suit no: FHC/ABJ/CS/826/2022, the PDP and its governorship candidate, Hon Titus Uba are challenging the APC primary election that produced Rev Fr Hycent Alia as its governorship candidate, while Governor Ortom, Senator Gabriel Suswam and Senator Abba Moro are in a separate suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/ 889/2022, contesting the Direct Primary election of the APC that produced its candidates for the three Senatorial of the state.
Listed as defendants in the multiple suits are the Independent National Electoral Commission; Rev Fr Hycent Alia; Dr Terlumun Ikya; Benard Yisa, Dr Mathias Byuan, Godwin Tyoachimin, Chief Michael Aondokaa, SAN, Senator Barnabas Gemade, Hon Herman Hembe, Anyom Mlanga, Terwase Orbunde, Chief Stephen Lawani, Dr Sam Ode and Prof Terhemba Shija.
The rest are Emmanuel Udende, Titus Zam, Daniel Onjeh, Samuel Zuga, Dr Torngee Malu, David Awunah, Nelson Alapa, Jacob Ajene, Austin Oleho and Maj Gen Joseph Eje (retd).
In originating summons dated June 8, 2022, and filed by a consortium of senior lawyers led by Chief Sabastine Hon, SAN, with Haris Ogbole, SAN, and Douglas Pepe, SAN, the plaintiffs are urging the court to compel the electoral body from accepting, recognizing and publishing the names of the APC candidates for the various political positions in the state.
They premised their grounds on the fact that the primary election that produced them as candidates of the APC was conducted in breach of the relevant electoral laws and constitutional provisions for the conduct of party primaries.
The plaintiffs specifically referred the court to the combined provisions of sections 77(2) and(3), 82(1), (2) and (5); 84(1), 4(a)-(c) and (13) of the Electoral Act, 2022 and sections 177(c) and 285(14) of the 1999 Constitution.
It is the contention of the plaintiffs that INEC connived with the defendants or willingly breached its statutory duties, by permitting the defendants to flout the mandatory provisions of its Constitution and other relevant provisions put in place for the conduct of the party primary election for the aforementioned political offices.
That whether by the strict interpretations of the above-mentioned provisions as well as the INEC guidelines for the conduct of political party primaries, 2022, INEC is not under duty or can be compelled by the court to reject, refused to recognize and refused to publish the names of Rev Fr Hycent Alia and other defendants as candidates sponsored by the APC for the 2023 Governorship and Senatorial election in the state.
The plaintiffs are equally pressing the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining INEC from acting on the list of candidates sent to it by the APC for the 2023 polls.
Meanwhile, Justice Emeka Nwite has ordered substituted service of the court processes on the defendants after granting the application moved by the plaintiff’s counsel, Chief Sabastine Hon, SAN.
Justice Nwite thereafter fixed August 1, 2022, for hearing of the suit.