A Federal High Court in Abuja has sacked a lawmaker representing Ibaji constituency in the Kogi State House of Assembly, Atule Egbunu. Egbunu who was declared winner of a bye-election on account of his 8, 515 votes was removed as a lawmaker on the ground that he was unlawfully nominated by the All Progressive Congress (APC).
Justice Inyang Ekwo, while delivering judgment in a suit instituted by an APC chieftain, Joseph Enemona against APC and four others, declared Daniel Enefola of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the lawmaker for Ibaji constituency, having come second with 4, 564 votes in the December 5, 2020 state election. Enemona, a state House of Assembly aspirant, on the platform of the APC had dragged the party before the Federal High Court, challenging the legality of the September 3, 2020 primary election claimed to have been conducted by his party.
His grouse, among others, was that the party unlawfully excluded six other aspirants from the primary election and also did not allow delegates to vote at the poll. Plaintiff further asserted that while the law stipulated that the primary election be conducted at the party secretariat in Onyedega, the APC officials allegedly conducted a purported primary election in a Mall.
He further contended that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was not given 21 days notice before the purported primary election as mandatorily required by Section 85 of Electoral Act, 2010. Plaintiff further hinged his case on the ground that while the APC guidelines stipulated direct primary election, the APC officials manipulated the guidelines and purportedly used indirect system to pick the purported candidate.
He therefore demanded that the purported nomination of Egbunu be voided and another primary election be conducted. However, Justice Ekwo, after reviewing submissions by parties in the matter, agreed that the APC did not conduct a primary election known to law. The Judge held that while seven aspirants were to participate in the primary election, the party unlawfully maneuvered the system and made the participation for a single candidate. The Court also held that the APC ran foul of the law by conducting the purported primary election outside the party secretariat as required by law.
The Court also faulted the purported substitution done between Matthew Oguche and Atule Egbunu on the ground that Oguche was not one of the legitimate aspirants before the election. Justice Ekwo, therefore, declared the purported APC primary election as illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void and subsequently sent it aside. Justice Ekwo said that since the time for primary and nomination of candidates had lapsed, the candidate of the party which came second in the December 5, 2020 bye-election should be inaugurated as the lawmaker for Ibaji constituency.