3rd February, 2023
By Wandoo Sombo
Labour Party, LP secured a major victory ahead of the forthcoming elections on Thursday as a Federal High Court sitting Abuja ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to accept its candidates across the 24 states of the federation.
The 24 states include Bayelsa, Niger, Rivers, Sokoto, Akwa Ibom, Gombe, Borno, Osun, Adamawa and Cross Rivers Benue, Bauchi, Ebonyi Ekiti, Kwara, Plateau, Katsina, Nasarawa, Lagos, Kaduna and Oyo states among others.
In the suit, Labour Party had said it substituted candidates who withdrew from the 2023 general elections in the affected states and INEC was duly informed of the development by its National Chairman and National Secretary
The party also said it notified INEC the party said that it will conduct primary elections to replace the candidates on 27 October.
But the party said at the point of uploading the fresh candidates’ names, INEC claimed that its nomination portal was faulty and declined to accept the candidates list manually, hence its resort to court with 24 suits.
Ruling on the suit, Justice Inyang Ekwo held that INEC violated Sections 31, 33 and 36 of the Electoral Act 2022 in rejecting the Labour Party’s candidates in the affected states on the grounds of non-functioning of its nomination portal.
The court therefore directed the electoral umpire to accept the list of the candidates in the 24 States either manually or through its electronic nomination portal.
The judge held that the evidence of the Labour Party through exchanged letters with INEC in the nomination issue was credible and proceeded to attach probative value to it.
He said that the consequences of non-functional electronic nomination portal could not be visited on the Labour Party.
He agreed with the submissions of the party that nomination and submission of candidates list could not be rejected by INEC from any party until 90 days to the general elections.
The court said that the time the Labour Party sought to submit the list of its candidates in the 24 states was more than 90 days to the 2023 general elections, and so it was within the time allowed by law.
Justice Ekwo held that INEC was bound to accept the party’s candidates’ list manually if its electronic nomination portal was faulty.
He subsequently ordered INEC to open its website for the purpose of allowing the Labour Party to submit the list of its candidates or accept same manually with immediate effect for the purpose of the 2023 general elections.