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Investigate legal department, sanction erring officials – Labour Party tells INEC Chair

.As Double Appearance Stalls Appeal Hearing in Lagos Tribunal

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CHIGOZIE IKPO, Abuja

 

The Labour Party has called on the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, to set in and the legal officials of the commission over an alleged compromise in the ongoing hearing of the party’s petitions across the country.

The party made this call in light of the drama at the Court of Appeal, Lagos, on Thursday, after the double appearance of legal counsels representing INEC stopped the hearing of an appeal filed by one of her candidates in the last election.

The appeal filed by Hon. Amobi Ogah was against the judgement of the election tribunal which sacked him as a member Federal House of Representatives seat for Isikwuato/Umunneochi Federal Constituency ruling in favour of the All Progressives Congress candidate, Nkiruka Onyejeocha.

However, when the matter was called, to the surprise of everyone, two legal counsels stood to represent the commission, which made the court adjourn the hearing for INEC to sort itself out.

Reacting to the Development on Thursday, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Obiora Ifoh, accused the commission’s legal representatives of plotting to stall proceedings in their appeals and urged the Chairman of the commission to investigate and possibly sanction erring officials.

In an open letter addressed to the Chairman of the commission, Ifoh lamented the “sledge hammer policy” of the judiciary against members of the party which has seen some of them lose their seats at both Federal and state assemblies and urged the Judiciary to always stand on the part of equity and fairness.

The statement reads, “Mr. Chairman sir, it is no longer news that the Labour Party achieved appreciable and unprecedented success in the last general election. Winning as many as 35 seats in the House of Representatives, 8 seats in the Senate, and numerous seats in the state Houses of Assembly.

“We also won a governorship seat and with over 6 million voters standing behind our presidential candidate. We sincerely recognize and understand the efforts of INEC in the epoch-making events.

“However, these feats have been seriously threatened by the recent developments and outcomes from the various tribunals. Some of these victories by the Labour Party were overturned albeit unconstitutionally.

“The party had sometimes in September lamented the sledge hammer policy against the Labour Party and its members, and had appealed that the judiciary should be partners in sustaining the fledgling democracy by always ensuring that it stands on the altar of justice.

“Mr. Chairman sir, we, therefore, bring to your notice an ugly incident that happened yesterday, 19th day of October 2023 at Lagos State, venue of the Appeal Court on the Appeal No. CA/OW/HR/AB/06/2023 between the Labour Party candidate, Hon. Amobi Ogah, who is the plaintiff and the All Progressives Congress candidate, Nkiruka Onyejeocha, who is the Respondent. INEC is also a Respondent in that matter.

“Hon. Ogah of the Labour Party contested and won with a large margin the Federal House of Representatives seat for Isikwuato/Umunneochi Federal Constituency, but his victory was annulled at the Election Tribunal, hence the resolve to approach the Appellate Court.

“Sir, what played out yesterday, 19th day of October, 2023, was unbelievable, hence we call on you to nip the development in the bud to avoid a messy situation. INEC had engaged a Senior Counsel, J.O. Asoluka (SAN), as its lawyers with a letter of authorisation to represent the commission.

“But at the commencement of the hearing at the Appeal Court, another lawyer surfaced with another letter of authority to take over the case of the self-same INEC without prior notice to J.O Asoluka (SAN), that the new counsel had been engaged.

” They also did not see any need to inform the Plaintiff of the development as required by law. When the matter thus came up, a squabble ensued between the two counsels as to who had the authority of INEC to represent it in the case.

“Conspicously present at the venue of the Appeal Court were some expelled members of the Labour Party under the headship of Lamidi Apapa. Also present were some leaders of the APC who openly fraternize with the Apapa cohorts and who openly boasted that they would purchase judgement at all costs. They also attempted unsuccessfully to hijack the legal representation of the Labour Party.

“Chairman sir, it has now dawned on us that the change of legal guard without properly notifying the interested parties was carefully orchestrated by the Commission in alliance with our opponents with the intention to stall proceedings at the Court of Appeal and frustrate our candidate’s appeal that was due for hearing on Thursday.

“We are raising this alarm because time is of the essence, even though, the collaborators achieved their intentions as the appeal could not be heard and was adjourned by the court to enable INEC to put its house in order and determine who of the two counsels, has her authority to represent her in the appeal.

“We are therefore using this platform to urge you to investigate the inglorious roles which the legal department of the commission is playing and sanction erring officials. The role of INEC in this matter is simply to defend the outcome of the election that it conducted and on which it declared Hon. Amobi Ogah as the duly elected candidate to represent Isikwuato/Umunneochi Federal Constituency in the National Assembly.

“The Commission must reject any semblance of compromise. Nigerians are still looking up to it to redeem its image in, the aftermath of the controversial 2023 general elections. It must not allow a few pliable members of the Commission to further taint the integrity of the commission.” Ifoh concluded.

 

 

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