• As Court bars INEC from by-election

The Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday restrained the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from conducting fresh election to fill the 14 seats declared vacant in the Edo State House of Assembly.

Justice Ahmed Mohammed gave the order in a motion ex-parte filed by Mr D.D. Dodo on behalf of the 14 lawmakers.

He therefore ordered all parties in the suit to stay further action pending the determination of the motion before the Court.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the first and second defendants in the suit are Speaker, Edo State House of Assembly, Frank Okiye and INEC.

The plaintiffs are Victor Edoror, Washington Osifo, Vincent Uwadiae, Kingsley Ugabi, Michael Ohio-Ezomo, Sunday Aghedo and Chris Okaeben.

Others are Crosby Eribo, Aliyu Oshiomhole, Oshomah Ahmed, Ganiyu Audu, Ugiagbe Dumez, Uyi Ekhosuehi and Eric Okaka.

The 14 lawmakers had on December 12, 2019 sought an order of interim injunction restraining INEC from conducting a by-election in respect of their seats in the State Assembly purportedly declared vacant by the Speaker on December 4, last year pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice December 10, 2019.

At the hearing, Justice Mohammed had directed the first and second defendants to appear before the court on December 19 to show cause why the interim injunction should not be granted.

Mohammed also ordered that the enrolled order to show cause, motion ex-parte for an interim injunction, motion on notice for interlocutory injunction and the originating processes should be served on the respondents.

The judge, who ordered that hearing notices be issued on the respondents, then adjourned the matter until December 19 for Okiye and INEC to appear and show cause.

However, the court did not sit that day, and parties were given yesterday’s date for the case. At the resumed sitting, Ikhide Ehighelua, counsel for the 14 lawmakers, reminded the court about the motion ex-parte, saying: “My Lord, my learned friend from INEC is here today.”

In his submission, Counsel to INEC, Femi Adeyemi acknowledged that the Commission was served with all the processes, including the enrolled order, but added that it was not served with the motion ex-parte.

Adeyemi, who told the court that INEC’s position on the matter was to be neutral, said the electoral umpire did not oppose the applications filed by the plaintiffs.

“My Lord, our position is that we want to retain our neutrality,” Adeyemi said, even as he hinted that no affidavit has been filed in support of the Commission’s position.

Justice Mohammed, however, said based on provisions of Order 26 Rules 11, 12 and 13 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, 2019, where a defendant is asked to come and show cause, the defendant is expected to file an affidavit in evidence and not oral evidence.

“What you are telling me here is evidence. I understand you very well. You file an affidavit that you want to be neutral.

“File an affidavit and explain there even if it is two paragraphs, but not to stand at the bar and explain,” the judge said.

He therefore told Adeyemi that having decided not to oppose the applications filed by the lawmakers, INEC should restrain itself from taking further step since the matter is still pending in court.

Ruling on the matter, the judge ordered INEC to file an affidavit in support of its position and to show cause why the interim injunction should not be granted before the next adjourned date.

Justice Mohammed also directed that the first defendant, Mr Okiye, who was not represented in court, be issued with the hearing notice and adjourned sitting until January 28, 2020.

Governor Godwin Obaseki had at a gathering of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state on December 26, 2019, said the 14 lawmakers “who were mistakenly elected into Edo State House of Assembly and are members of the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) have been thrown out.”

According to the Governor, INEC was “aware and will soon announce a date for a fresh election, where we would have the opportunity to elect credible representatives who will represent us in the House.”

The 14 lawmakers had, since the inauguration of the assembly, drawn a battle line with the governor over what they described as leadership imposition in the house. – NAN

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