By Eric Ikhilae, Abuja
A Federal High Court in Abuja has voided the election of the member of Kogi Assembly, Atule Egbunu, representing Ibaji constituency on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In his place, Justice Inyang Ekwo ordered that the candidate of the party that came second in the December 5, 2020 by-election, which produced Egbunu, should be inaugurated in placed of the sacked APC candidate.
Justice Ekwo gave the order in a judgement on Friday in the suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/173/2020 filed by Joseph Enemona, in which he challenged the propriety of the primary election conducted by his party, the APC, to chose a candidate for the by-election.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared APC’s Egbunu winner with 8,515 votes, while PDP’s candidate for the election, Daniel Enefola came second with 4, 564 votes in the December 5, 2020 election.
Justice Ekwo, in the judgment, upheld the plaintiff’s claim that the APC did not conduct a valid primary election.
The judge noted that, while seven aspirants were to participate in the primary election, the party unlawfully manoeuvred the process, made the participation of a single aspirant possible and denied the other six the opportunity to participate.
He added that the APC acted unlawfully by conducting the purported primary election outside the party’s secretariat, as required by law.
Justice Ekwo faulted the respondents’ claim that the winner of the purported election, Matthew Oguche was substituted with Atule Egbunu, noting that Oguche was not one of a legitimate aspirants before the election.
The judge proceeded to declare the primary held by the APC as illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional and subsequently set it aside.
Justice Ekwo declined the plaintiff’s request for an order for the conduct of a fresh primary election but ordered that the candidate of the party that came second in the election be inaugurated.
The judge held that the time for the conduct of primary and nomination of candidate for the December 5, 2020 bye-election had lapsed
He argued among others, that the party unlawfully excluded six other aspirants from the primary election and also did not allow delegates to vote.
The plaintiff stated that, while as required by the law, the primary elections should have been conducted at the party secretariat in Onyedega, officials of the APC took the primary election to a mall.
He further stated that INEC was not given the required 21-day’s notice before the said primary election, as required under Section 85 of Electoral Act, 2010.
The plaintiff contended that while the APC guidelines stipulated direct primary election, officials of the part manipulated the guidelines and used indirect system to pick the purported candidate.
He, among others, prayed the court to void the purported nomination of Egbunu and order the conduct of another primary election.