Court slams new party, denies ordering INEC to shift elections or reprint ballot papers

A Federal High Court in Abuja has summoned officials of a newly-registered political party for claiming its mandate in pressuring the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to either shift Nigeria’s forthcoming elections, or reprint ballot papers with the party’s name, three weeks to the polls.

A judge summoned leaders of Young Democratic Party to appear on March 23 for misinterpreting his ruling by claiming that the court ordered INEC to accommodate the party in the forthcoming general elections.

The court had on March 4 ordered that YDP be registered by INEC.

But the party created a stir last week four weeks to the poll, by claiming the court had also ordered INEC to ensure it takes part in the forthcoming elections.

The party, accordingly, gave INEC two conditions, saying the electoral body either reprints the ballot papers with its name included, or reschedule to elections the second time.

The party scheduled its primary elections to hold on March 26 and 27, barely 24 hours to the March 28 presidential election, banking on the alleged court judgment.

On Monday, INEC appealed the purported High Court judgment at the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, and filed a notice of stay of execution before the High Court.

When the stay of execution case came up for hearing at the High Court, the court instead summoned the officials of the new party.

The presiding judge, Ahmed Mohammed, said the court was embarrassed by the claim of the party’ officials at a press conference that in its judgment of March 4, 2015, it ordered the Commission to shift the 2015 elections in order to accommodate the party in the polls.

Justice Mohammed, Thursday, ordered YDP’s lead counsel, Kelvin Nwofo, to investigate the issue and ensure all the party officials who addressed the March 5 conference were brought before the court on March 23.

The order made in the judgment by the court showed the court only directed INEC to register the party. There was no directive to accommodate the party in the forthcoming general elections.

The judge had held in the judgment that YDP was deemed registered as a political party by virtue of the failure of INEC to communicate its decision not to register the then political association as a political party within 30 days of receiving its (the plaintiff’s) application as provided by section 78 (4) of the Electoral Act.

Mr. Mohammed, who said he received reactions from home and abroad with people expressing worry over the purported pronouncement, added that the party’s claim during the said press conference put the court in “a very negative light”.

He said the failure of Mr. Nwofo to comply with his directive to produce the persons involved in the press conference on March 23, would lead the court to “cite any person who misrepresented its record and judgment for contempt”.

“As far as the court is concerned no such orders were made,” he said. “In fact, even the plaintiff, the Young Democratic Party, did not seek such reliefs from the court. It is therefore very unfortunate that the court is portrayed in a very negative perspective.

“In the light of the embarrassing situation, I hereby direct the learned senior counsel to the plaintiff to investigate this ugly development and bring the persons or possible persons who held the press conference to court on the next adjourned date to show the court where the said order was made, failing which the court will not hesitate to cite any person who misrepresented its record and judgment for contempt.”


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