AN Abuja Federal High Court on Monday, July 10, stopped the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from prosecuting the suspended Adamawa State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Hudu Yunusa Ari.
INEC has sued Ari over his declaration of Aisha Dahiru (Binani) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the March 18 governorship election in Adamawa State.
According to Vanguard Newspaper, the court presided by Donatus Okorowo, a Justice, halted plans by INEC to prosecute the suspended REC while ruling on an ex parte application brought by Dahiru’s counsel, Michael Aondoaka (SAN).
The APC candidate in the election sued INEC, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), and another party as respondents in the ex-parte action numbered FHC/ABJ/CS/935/2023.
Aondoaka made the application on Monday, July 10, and stated that the prosecution of the suspended REC can only be regarded as legitimate once the election petition tribunal renders a decision regarding Dahiru’s fate in accordance with Section 149 of the Electoral Act, 2022.
He argued that since the tribunal had not yet decided on Dahiru’s petition, INEC’s decision to take legal action against anyone connected to her declaration as the winner of the Adamawa supplementary election on April 15 would deprive her of the 180-day deadline provided by Section 285(6) of the law for disposing of the petition she filed on May 6.
After listening to Aondoaka, Okorowo instructed the parties to maintain the status quo until the hearing and resolution of the case.
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The judge directed the defendants to justify why the reliefs requested by Dahiru should not be granted.
The matter was then postponed until July 18 for a hearing.
The ICIR reported that INEC filed a six-count charge against Ari on July 6.
The charge was filed at the High Court in Yola, Adamawa State capital.
The development was disclosed in a statement signed by INEC spokesperson Festus Okoye on Thursday, July 6.
INEC said it took action after reviewing the case file from the Police, which established a prima facie case against the suspended REC.
The Commission said it is working with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) for diligent prosecution of the case.
The ICIR reported on July 5 that the INEC said it is ready to prosecute the suspended REC for his role in the 2023 elections.
The Commission also said it would work with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices, and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) to prosecute persons engaged in vote buying during the general elections.
The Chairman of the Commission, Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this while addressing RECs from the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The ICIR also reported in April that former President Muhammadu Buhari approved the Adamawa REC’s suspension after he illegally declared the winner of the state governorship election while the collation of results had yet to conclude.
According to Electoral Act (2022), the Returning Officer for the election, rather than the REC, has the power to declare the winner of an election.