By Olalekan Awojodu
A Federal High Court judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo again reiterated the seriousness of primary elections in Nigeria’s democracy when he disqualified the ruling party, All Progressives Congress(APC) and its gubernatorial candidate in the just concluded Anambra state governorship elections, Mr Andy Uba.
The judge ruled that any party, regardless of its power, that fails to comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act as well as it’s guidelines for the conduct of party primary cannot participate in an election.
Justice Inyang Ekwo gave the verdict in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/648/21. In upholding the sanctity of the electoral laws, the trial judge once again demonstrated the firmness of the judiciary in upholding credible and satisfactory electoral process.
The court subsequently sacked the APC and Uba from participating in the governorship poll and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to delist the names of APC and Uba “from the list of political parties and gubernatorial candidates for the November 6 governorship election or at any subsequent postponement.
In the same vein, the court also ordered the APC to refund the sum of N22.5 million to Chief George Moghalu (APC governorship aspirant) being cost of nomination and expression of interest forms for primary election it failed to conduct.
Moghalu, one of the 14 aspirants who purchased forms to contest the governorship election under the platform of the APC it would be recalled dragged the APC, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Uba to court over the ticket of the APC in the just concluded governorship election in Anambra State.
The aggrieved aspirant who claimed that he was robbed of the APC gubernatorial ticket in favour of Uba, had asked Justice Ekwo to hold that his party did not conduct a valid primary election for the selection/nomination of its candidate for the November 6, governorship poll.
Among the reliefs sought from the court was an order compelling INEC to delist the name of Uba and the APC from among the list of political parties and gubernatorial candidates for the November 6 election or any subsequent postponement.
In addition, he is demanding the sum of N122.5 million damages from the APC, insisting that the sum of N22.5 million was meant for the refund of payment for the expression of interest form and nomination form.
He also prayed the court to order the APC to pay him the sum of N100 million as “exemplary and general damages for the breach of contract to commence and conclude primary election and or breach of Section 87 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) and the regulations and guidelines of the political party”.
“It is my finding that the Plaintiff has demonstrated upon preponderance of evidence that the gubernatorial primary election of the 1st defendant was not conducted in accordance with the provisions of Ss. 85 (2) and 87(1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and Articles 17 (vi) and 18(e), (9) and (0 of 1 Defendant’s Guidelines for the Nomination of candidates for the Anambra 2021 Gubernatorial Election”, Justice Ekwo held.
The judge explained that the real issue which both the APC and Uba seemed not to understand was not whether accredited members of the APC voted on June 26, 2021 but whether there was any primary election at all conducted in accordance with the mandatory provisions of both the Electoral Act (as amended) and the APC’s
Guidelines for the Nomination of candidates for the Anambra 2021gubernatorial Election-Direct Primaries (Option A4).
“When a primary election is illegal, the fact that such illegal election was monitored by the Nigeria Police (or other security agencies) as averred in paragraph 25 (i) of the 3rd Defendant’s Counter-Affidavit is of no moment.
“The function of the Nigeria Police (or other security agencies) during primary election or even election proper is not to monitor same” he held.
The judge explained that the court was inclined to grant the relief for refund of the sum paid by the Plaintiff for the expression of interest form and nomination form since having voided the primary election.