The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Thursday, ordered the electoral umpire to reinstate the Social Democratic Party (SDP) candidate, Natasha Akpoti, for the election in Kogi State.
Delivering judgement on Thursday, Folashade Ogunbanjo-Giwa held that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was wrong to have excluded Akpoti from the forthcoming election.
Ogunbanjo-Giwa also held that INEC has no power to disqualify any candidate for an election as it is the exclusive reserve of a competent court of law.
The judge said the provisions of sections 31(1) and 83 of the Electoral Act holds that INEC cannot disqualify or reject a candidate nominated by a political party for an election.
The judge added that the intention of the law is to make INEC a true unbiased umpire.
She, accordingly, granted the plaintiffs’ reliefs 1-7 and ordered INEC to include the names of the governorship and deputy governorship candidates of SDP as well as the party’s logo on the ballot paper in the state.
Akpoti, her deputy Adams Khalid and the SDP had approached the court to challenge their exclusion from the 2019 Kogi State governorship election by INEC.
The electoral umpire had refused to accept the nomination of Khalid in replacement of the earlier nominated running mate, Mohammed Yakubu.
Yakubu was replaced on the grounds that he was not qualified to run as a deputy governorship candidate on account of his age.
Akpoti and the SDP were thus disqualified by INEC for nominating an unqualified deputy governorship candidate.
But the plaintiffs in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1129/2019 and filed on October 3 by their lawyer, Ola Olanipekun, sought a declaration of the court that INEC’s declaration is against the statutory powers of the electoral umpire and is therefore null and void.