Election Appeal: Labour Party Writes INEC on Show of Infamy

Bitrus Kozah

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The Labour Party (LP) in Nigeria has written an open letter to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on an alleged show of infamy and dishonour by the commission at the hearing of an election petition between the LP’s House of Reps candidate, Hon. Amobi Ogah, and that of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Nkiru Onyejeocha, the INEC also being a respondent in the matter.

Following the hearing on Friday at the Appeal Court in Lagos, South-west Nigeria, the National Publicity Secretary of the LP, Mr. Obiora Ifoh, wrote a letter to the INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, acknowledging the feats achieved by the party in the last general election, but claimed that the party’s successes have been seriously threatened by the recent developments and outcome from the various tribunals.

According to Mr. Ifoh, some of these victories by the Labour Party have been overturned, albeit unconstitutionally. He, therefore, called on the INEC to reject any form of compromise.

“Mr. Chairman sir, it is no longer news that the Labour Party achieved appreciable and unprecedented success in the last general election, winning as much 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 outcome from the various tribunals. Some of these victories by the Labour Party were overturned, albeit unconstitutionally.

The party had sometime 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 fledging 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 lawyer with a letter of authorization 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.

“Conspicuously present at the venue of the Appeal Court were some expelled members of 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 were openly boasting that they will purchase judgement at all cost. 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 essence, even though the collaborators achieved their intentions, as the appeal could not be heard and was adjourned by the court to enable INEC 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 which 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, 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,” the letter read.

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