By Vivian Okejeme and Ali Alkali with Agency report, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), National Assembly (NASS) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) have been sued over adoption of new dates scheduled for the 2019 general elections.
The Plaintiff, Hope Democratic Party (HDP), is praying the federal high court in Abuja to set aside the scheduled staggered elections recently announced by the electoral body. The party premised their application on Sections 76, 116, 132 and 178 of the 1999 Constitution and Section 25 of the Electoral Act, 2010.
Besides, the party also prayed the court to set aside the letter of AGF and INEC dated January 11, 2018, notifying political parties in the country of the staggered elections for 2019 on the ground that the letters and staggered elections are unconstitutional, oppressive, abuse of power and ultra vires.
In the suit number FHC/ABJ/207/2018, the party wants the court to determine whether by virtue of the provision of the amendment Electoral Act, 2010, the INEC, NASS and AGF are not under a duty and obligation to electronically hold and conduct the scheduled 2019 general elections into the offices of the president, National Assembly, governorship and state Houses of Assembly, the same day, in any order or sequence they may choose to conduct the elections on the appointed date.
The legal action which was dated February 26, is praying the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the three defendants, their agents, servants and privies from engaging, planning or conducting any form of staggered general election under any guise in the forthcoming 2019 general elections.
Counsel to the Plaintiff, Mr. Raphael Nweke Ekene, also sought order of the court directing the defendants to undertake and ensure the holding of all elections in 2019 by electronic devices, including card readers. This, according to the party, is to allow equal participation, certainty of planning and ease of results and to eliminate and reduce costs, logistics and unnecessary expenses within the limits of election expenses provided by law.
The party also prayed the court to set aside the letter of AGF and INEC dated January 11, 2018, notifying political parties in the country of the staggered elections for 2019 on the ground that the letters and staggered elections are unconstitutional, oppressive, abuse of power and ultra vires.
In a 20- paragraph affidavit in support of the originating summons, the plaintiff claimed to be a registered political party and had participated in the previous staggered general elections outside the proposed general elections and that it has interest in the conduct of a free and fair general election within the ambit of international best practices at the upcoming 2019 general election.
The affidavit deposed to by a lawyer, Ipinu Emmanuel averred that the defendants have since 1999 been inconsistent in adhering strictly to and holding any proper general elections, but resulted to a form of staggered general elections at different dates and shifting order and sequence of elections at will and to their advantages.
The affidavit indicated that the present day reality and harsh economic situation and limited resources of participating political parties and their sponsored candidates favoured the conduct of all the elections into various offices in one appointed date to save costs, curtail election expenses and to make elections affordable to parties.
The affidavit further stated that apart from saving costs, a one day election in any sequence would ensure victory and emergence of good candidates for good governance.
No date has been fixed for hearing of the suit.
Similarly, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Anike Nwoga, has asked the Federal High Court Enugu, to stop the National Assembly from changing the sequence of the 2019 elections.
Nwoga, the Zonal Vice Chairman of APC in Enugu East senatorial district, filed the suit on Friday, March 2, 2018 through his lawyer, Godwin Onwusi Esq.
In a motion on notice, supported by 25-paragraph affidavit, he is praying the court for an interlocutory injunction, restraining the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from assenting to the bill passed by the National Assembly, changing the sequence of the 2019 elections, when it is presented to him for assent, pending the determination of the substantive suit.
The motion on notice was brought pursuant to orders 26 and 28 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2009 and under the inherent jurisdiction of the Honourable court,
Aside the National Assembly, which was listed as the 1stdefendant/respondent, others listed as 2nd to 4th defendants/respondents in the suit numbered: FHC/EN/CS/28/2018 and commenced through an originating summons, are INEC, the President of Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).
Apart from the prayer for interlocutory injunction restraining the President, 3rddefendant, from assenting to the bill re-ordering the election sequence, Nwoga is also praying for an order of interlocutory injunction, restraining the NASS, 1st defendant, from overriding the President’s veto, should he decide to veto the bill, reordering the sequence of the elections, pending the determination of the substantive suit.
The plaintiff equally asked for an order of interlocutory injunction restraining INEC, 2nddefendant, from complying with the sequence of elections contained in the bill passed by the National Assembly and for such further orders as the court may deem fit to make in the circumstance, pending the deterrmination of the substantive suit.
Specifically, the plaintiff, Nwoga, is asking the court to among other things determine “Whether the National Assembly in exercise of its lawmaking powers can make laws to compel INEC to exercise the powers to organize, undertake and supervise elections conferred on it by the constitution in a particular sequence.”
“Whether the National Assembly in exercise of her law making powers can make a law to change the sequence of elections, already adopted and published by INEC, pursuant to the powers conferred on it by the constitution.”
A date is yet to be fixed for the hearing of the suit.