…Orders INEC to include her name on the ballot paper

BY VICTOR BUORO, ABUJA – A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja and presided over by Justice FOG Ogunbanjo on Thursday ruled against what it described as the “illegal disqualification of the Governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), for Kogi State in the November 16 election, Barr Natasha Akpoti by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The Court accordingly directed INEC to include Akpoti’s name on the ballot paper for the November 16, 2019 governorship election in Kogi State.

In her ruling, Justice Ogunbanjo said by virtue of section 31(1) of the Electoral Act, INEC does have power whatsoever to reject or disqualify any candidate.

The trial judge further ruled; “The word shall means compulsory, that INEC cannot reject any candidate submitted to it by a political party. It is not within the administrative power of INEC.

The Court also ruled that it is only a lawful constituted court or Tribunal that has power to disqualify a political candidate whatsoever

In the words of the Judge; “The Defendant (INEC) cannot assume the position of a quasi-court to determine who qualify and who does not qualify whatsoever. Every evidence shows the defendant has not filed any case against the action of the plaintiff before rejecting or disqualifying the plaintiff.

“None of the case cited by the defendant (INEC), shows that it has power to reject or disqualify any candidate whatsoever.

“I do not need to bore this honourable court with the judgment of the Supreme Court on the case of the Action Congress vs INEC 2007. I will advise the defendant to read the judgment and be guided by it.”

The court accordingly granted all the reliefs sought by the plaintiff (Akpoti), and rejected all the reliefs prayed for by the INEC.

In her reaction to the Court ruling, the Kogi State SDP governorship candidate, Barr. Natasha Akpoti said the Court verdict has set a new dawn in Nigeria, stressing that the journey to liberate Kogi State has begun.

In his own reaction, National Chairman of SDP, Prof Tunde Adeniran said the victory is for all Nigerians, adding that the constitution should always be respected instead of the unnecessary hurdle before the right thing is done.

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