The Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday sacked the lawmaker representing Ibaji Constituency in the Kogi State House of Assembly, Atule Egbunu.
The judge, Inyang Ekwo, ordered the removal of Mr Egbunu, an All Progressives Congress (APC) member, and directed that he be replaced with the candidate of the party with the next highest votes in the December 5, 2020 by-election in the constituency.
It will be recalled that the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Daniel Enefola, with 4,565 votes, came second behind Mr Egbunu of the APC who polled 8,515 votes in the by-election.
Going by Friday’s judgment, Mr Enefola of the PDP is for now the winner of the election.
But Mr Egburu who reserves the right to appeal against the verdict up to the Supreme Court level, can retain his seat till the final adjudication on the matter.
The judgment was on a suit filed by an APC member, Joseph Enemona, challenging the nomination of the sacked lawmaker, Mr Egbunu, as the party’s candidate for the by-election.
Invalid primary election
The plaintiff, who had sought to contest for the APC ticket with Mr Egbunu and five others, alleged in his suit that the party failed to hold any primary election.
He alleged the organisers of the purported primary election came to the venue with a prepared result and deprived him and his agents of entry.
He also claimed that the party failed to file to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the 21-day notice for the primary election as stipulated under section 85(1) of the Electoral Act.
He added that INEC officials did not monitor the said primary election.
Delivering judgment on Friday, Mr Ekwo agreed that the party did not conduct any valid primary.
He ruled that by their admission of the APC, sued as a defendant in the suit, it was clear that the party did not give INEC the 21-day notice as required by the law.
He said APC “did not comply with the law and its guidelines for nomination of its candidate”.
The judge added that the result of the primary election filed by APC and Mr Egbunu was fabricated.
He noted that it was surprising that only Mr Egbunu polled 296 votes in the election and “no other person voted for the other six aspirants”.
“It is clear to me that the result is a product of an organised manufacturing,” the judge ruled, adding that the party “did not conduct a primary election”.
APC fielded no candidate
He ruled that he ordinarily ought to order a fresh primary election, but because the main election had held, it implied that the APC fielded no candidate for the poll and the appropriate order to make “is that the party with the second highest number of votes becomes the winner of the election.”
The December 5 by-election was organised to fill the vacancy created by the death of John Abah also of the APC.
Kogi State, led by an APC governor, Mr Yahaya Bello, has a 25-member House of Assembly that is currently an all-APC legislature.
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