The Abuja division of the Federal High Court on Thursday, cleared the coast for the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Natasha Akpoti to participate in the November 16 governorship election in Kogi State after holding that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) lacks the constitutional powers to disqualify her from contesting the election.
In her judgment on Thursday, Justice Ogunbiyi-Giwa held that INEC has no power to disqualify any candidate for an election as it is the exclusive preserve of a competent court of law.
She placed reliance on the provisions of sections 31(1) and 83 of the Electoral Act to the effect that INEC cannot disqualify or reject candidate nominated by a political party for an election is aimed at ensuring that it does not lie within the executive realm of INEC to determine who participates in an election, adding that the intention of the law is to make INEC a truly unbiased umpire.
She, accordingly, ordered the electoral body to include her name and that of her running mate, Adams Khalid on the ballot paper for the November 16 polls.
The judge further granted reliefs 1-7 of the plaintiffs and ordered INEC to include the names of the governorship and deputy governorship candidate of the SDP as well and the party’s logo on the ballot in the November 16 governorship polls in Kogi State.
Akpoti, his deputy, Adams Khalid, and the SDP had approached the court to challenge their exclusion from the 2019 Kogi State governorship election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The commission had refused to accept the candidature of Khalid in replacement of the earlier nominated deputy governor, Mohammed Yakubu, on the grounds that Yakubu was not qualified in the first place to be fielded as a deputy governorship candidate in the election on account of his age.
But in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1129/2019 and filed on October 3 by their lawyer, Ola Olanipekun SAN, the plaintiffs sought a declaration of the court that INEC’s declaration vide a letter with reference number: LEG/PP/23/T/107 that the nomination of Mohammed Yakubu as the deputy governor of the SDP in the November 16 gubernatorial election was “invalid” on the grounds of qualification was ultra vires and therefore null and void.