Forthcoming Polls : Court clears Etanabene, six others

   *** Awards N500,000 costs against INEC    

A Federal High Court in Warri, Delta State, has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to present the candidate of the Labour Party (LP) for Sapele/Okpe/Uvwie Federal Constituency of Delta State, Mr. Benedict Etanabene and six others, for the February 25th and March 11th, general elections in the state.

The court, in the judgement by Justice Okon E. Abang, ordered INEC not to exclude Etanabene and six others plaintiffs, namely Mr. Ikukaiwe Chukwuemeka Lucky for Nkwuani state’s constituency; Mr. Oyetoniekwu Jeffery for Ika North East state’s constituency and Mr. Ekweda Ramsome for Ethiope East state’s constituency.

Other LP’s candidates covered by the court’s order include Mr. Chukwumah Ugbomah for Ndokwa East state’s constituency; Mr. Gold Lennox Egavoja for Udu state’s constituency and Mr. Odianosen Goddowell Ogbemudia, for Udu/Ughelli North/Ughelli South Federal Constituency of Delta state.

The court in the judgement delivered on Friday, January 20th, a certified true copy of which was obtained during the weekend, also awarded N500,000 costs against INEC.

The eight plaintiffs, including LP, had dragged INEC to court to enforce the rights of the candidates not to be excluded from the forthcoming elections due to the refusal of the electoral body to accept them as substituted candidates of LP in replacement of the erstwhile candidates, who have withdrawn from participating in the election.

The court granted all the eight prayers sought by the plaintiffs and ordered INEC to ensure compliance in accordance with section 221 and 229 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) as well as Sections 29, 30, 31, 32 and 33 of the Electoral Act 2022.

The court ruled that the LP was entitled to nominate Etanabene and six others as substituted candidates in the various federal and state’s constituencies in Delta State in the election holding on February 25th and March 11th, 2023, following the withdrawal of the party’s former candidates for the aforementioned offices.

The court observed that the candidates were validly nominated by LP and declared that the refusal of INEC to recognise them as wrongful, unconstitutional, unfair, null and void and of no effect, adding that the plaintiffs were entitled to recognition by INEC and their names be published to enable them to participate in the election.

The court further warned INEC not to reject, refuse, disqualify, invalidate or exclude the LP or its candidates from contesting the elections in the aforementioned areas.

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