Court restrains INEC from accepting APC candidates in Rivers

Nullifies direct, indirect primaries, party to challenge ruling
A Federal High Court in Port Harcourt has delivered judgments in two separate suits, asking the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) not to acknowledge Rivers State’s All Progressives Congress (APC) candidates at the general elections.

Justice Kolawole Omotosho gave the injunction yesterday sequel to a suit by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which prayed it to compel INEC to obey the judgment of a high court nullifying all Rivers State APC primaries and congresses.

The judge maintained that Rivers APC would not participate in the gubernatorial, Senate, House of Representatives and House of Assembly elections.

Omotosho, therefore, directed INEC to remove all APC candidates from ballot papers and other electoral materials.

Relying on the ruling and orders of Justice Chinwendu Nworgu of the Rivers State High Court, Omotosho insisted that APC acted in disobedience to court orders, and so it could not benefit from the same.

He declared: “An order is made stopping Rivers APC nominees from parading themselves as candidates for the 2019 general elections.”

He explained that all the primaries conducted by the Rivers State APC, having been nullified by the state high court, remain invalid because the judgment has not been set aside. Omotosho further argued that the APC in Rivers State has no right to nominate any candidate for all the elections.

Reacting, counsel for candidates of the APC, Mr. Emenike Ebete, said his clients would challenge the ruling and file a stay of execution. He said INEC could not execute the judgment of the Federal High Court as the ruling would not be the final declaration on the matter.

Counsel to PDP, Dike Udena, lauded the judgment, saying since the APC failed to comply with the Electoral Act, it could not participate in the general elections.

Senator Magnus Abe’s lawyer, Henry Bello, also said his client and others would appeal the judgment.

The court also refused to grant the application of Abe and other candidates of the Peter Odike faction, asking to be declared authentic candidates of the party in the state.

Omotosho held that the plaintiffs do not have legal standing given the fact that they hinged their request on the ruling of the state high court, which nullified primaries conducted by the APC. He held that the plaintiffs could not be nominated by the APC for the general elections, since a state high court had earlier set aside all primaries.

He, therefore, issued a restraining order, asking INEC not to recognise the candidates of the APC until a higher court of competent jurisdiction sets aside the ruling.

The APC in Rivers said it totally agreed with the court that Abe and other members of the party, who claimed they emerged through alleged direct primary polls, were not and could not be declared candidates of the party in the general elections.

In a statement issued by its state publicity secretary, Chris Finebone, the APC said its acceptance of the ruling on Abe was because the national body neither authorised or conducted the alleged direct primary as required by its constitution and guidelines and nor did INEC monitor the same.

The party, however, stated that it did not agree with the court that the Davies Ibiamu Ikanya and Peter Odike-led executive committee was still subsisting.

He stated: “The APC has the powers to dissolve its executive committee and that power was exercised on May 21, 2018. The APC, having dissolved that executive, it ceased to exist and could not be resurrected, even if the court finds, albeit wrongly, that there was no valid congress to replace the dissolved executive.

“We know, as it is the law in Nigeria today, that APC as a political party has the absolute powers to schedule, reschedule or even cancel any of its congresses. The party effectively terminated the ward, LGA and state congresses of May 5, 12 and 19, 2018. The APC primary election based on the unchallenged results and outcome of subsequent APC congresses were lawful and valid.”

Also, APC’s National Publicity Secretary Lanre Issa-Onilu said: “We have received the news of the judgment of the Federal High Court regarding our candidates in Rivers State. We are currently studying the decision of the court. We will make our position public in due course.”

Meanwhile, the Rivers State PDP campaign council hailed the judgment, describing it as victory for the rule of law and people of the state.

In a statement issued in Port Harcourt yesterday by its director of information and communications, Emma Okah, the council said the judgment would douse tension and promote peace in the state.

Okah said: “Rivers people, especially members of the PDP, are relieved. They are not in a hurry to forget the violence they suffered in the hands of the APC in collusion with INEC and security agencies in the legislative re-run elections in 2016 and the recent Port Harcourt state constituency by-election.”

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