Court sacks Otti as Gov-elect, nullifies LP candidates in Abia, Kano

A FEDERAL High Court sitting in Kano has nullified the candidature of Abia State Governor-elect Alex Otti and all the candidates of the Labour Party (LP) in Abia and Kano states.

Candidates of the LP in Abia and Kano in the general elections were declared invalid by Justice M. N. Yunusa of the Kano Federal High Court on the grounds that their emergence did not adhere to the requirements of the Electoral Act, 2022.

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The ICIR was able to see a copy of the court’s verdict on Friday, May 19.

The Court in Suit No FHC/KN/CS/107/2023 filed by Ibrahim Haruna Ibrahim against the LP and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ruled that the failure of the LP to submit its membership register to INEC within 30 days of its primaries rendered the process invalid,
“The party that has not complied with the provisions of the Electoral Act cannot be said to have candidate in an election and cannot be declared winner of an election. This being so, the votes credited to the 1st defendant (LP) is a wasted vote” the judge ruled.

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Checks by The ICIR suggest that the development is linked to the leadership crisis in the party.
According to a DAILY POST report, the Labour Party had accused a “breakaway group” of the party led by Lamidi Apapa of approaching a court in Kano State to seek the nullification of the party’s recent electoral victories.
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“The Labour Party has been informed of an illegal attempt by a breakaway group in the party led by Lamidi Apapa to misguide a Kano State High court to invalidate all the elections won by the Labour Party in the just concluded general election.

“The suspended National Legal Adviser and a vital member of the disgraced Apapa group, Samuel Akingbade Oyelekan, on Wednesday while the Presidential Appeal Tribunal was sitting in Abuja with all attentions focused on it, clandestinely sneaked out of Abuja to Kano State where he, in collaboration with some members of the other political parties, asked the court to invalidate all the elections won by the Labour Party, particularly, the National Assembly in the 36 states and FCT on the grounds that we didn’t submit register of voters to INEC,” the LP’s acting National Publicity Secretary, Obiora Ifoh, alleged.

He added that Akingbade, who presented himself as representing the Labour Party, did not oppose the motion, thus forcing the judge to reserve judgement.

Ifoh asked the judiciary and all law enforcement agencies, including the police and the Department of State Services, DSS, to note that Akingbade and loyalists of Apapa’s had ceased to represent the party.

Meanwhile, the spokesperson of the Labour Party’s presidential candidate, Yunusa Tanko, said court’s decision to invalidate the election of Otti as the next governor of Abia State will not stand.

In an exclusive interview with DAILY POST on Friday, May 19, Tanko said the court lacked the jurisdiction to hear and determine the matter.

He added that a rival party was responsible for the judgment and noted that the will of Abia State residents will stand.

“The judgment will not stand because the Federal High Court lacks jurisdiction to entertain an electoral matter. It is within the jurisdiction of the electoral tribunal. I believe this is the work of the opposition party. However, the will of the Abia people will stand,” Tanko told DAILY POST.

INEC declared Otti of the Labour Party (LP) as the winner of the governorship election in Abia State.

Otti emerged victorious in the March 18 Guber poll after beating his major rival, Okey Ahiwe of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)

The LP candidate secured 175,467 votes, while Ahiwe got 88,529.

Enyinnaya Nwafor of the Young Peoples Party (YPP) scored 28,972 votes to finish third.

The Labour Party is currently enmeshed in a leadership crisis. The national chairman Abure and three other leaders of the party – the General Secretary, Farouk Ibrahim, the National Organising Secretary, Clement Ojukwu, and the Treasurer, Oluchi Opara – were suspended by an Abuja Federal High Court in April.

The court, presided by Justice Hamza Muazu, gave an ex parte order that the officials should remain suspended, pending the hearing and determination of a suit challenging their continued stay in office over allegations of corruption brought against them.

The plaintiff, James Onoja, alleged that the affected national officers had forged multiple documents from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, using them to perform unlawful substitutions during the 2023 general election.

Following the court order, the party’s South-West chairman, Lamidi Apapa, announced himself as the party’s acting national chairman.

Apapa’s declaration was vehemently rejected by the 36 state chairmen of the party, who declared their support for Abure as the party leader.

There are speculations that Apapa intends to withdraw the petition filed by LP presidential candidate, Peter Obi, against the election of APC’s Bola Tinubu. Apapa had summoned the lawyers representing Obi and the LP at the presidential election tribunal for a meeting.

A reporter with the ICIR
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