Ike Nnachi, Abakaliki
The Federal High Court in Abakaliki on Thursday nullified the local government elections held in Ebonyi State.
The election was held on July 30, 2022, across the state with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state winning in all the 13 local government areas.
However some members of the opposition political parties in the state went to court to challenge the legality of the election.
The plaintiffs, Otu Collins and four others in a suit alleged that the election contravened the 2022 electoral act.
“We submit further that the proposed Local Government Areas election in Ebonyi State is in total violation of the relevant sections of the Electoral Act, 2022. Section 150(1) of the Electoral Act, 2022 provides as follows:
“In furtherance of the provision of paragraph 11 of Part of the Second Schedule to the Constitution, the procedure regulating elections conducted by the Commission to Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory under this Act shall be the same and apply with equal force as the procedure regulating elections conducted to Local Government Areas by any state commission.”
“It is our submission that the purported attempt by the Defendants to conduct Local Government Chairmanship and Councillorship elections in Ebonyi State on 30/07/2022, when the last election was conducted on 29/08/2020, is in total violation of the above section of the Electoral act and this Honourable Court has the vires under Section 150(3) of the Electoral Act to declare same invalid, and we urge Your Lordship to so hold”, they argued.
The clients also alleged that the election held without their being availed with the state local government electoral law which was used to conduct the election.
They alleged that despite several letters to Ebonyi State Independent Electoral Commission (EBSIEC) and the State House of Assembly demanding for them to be availed with the law they were ignored.
In his ruling, the Judge, Justice Fatun Riman agreed with the plaintiffs that the election contravened the electoral act.
He therefore declared the said local government elections null and void.
Ruling will end governors impunity – Plaintiffs Lawyer
Reacting, Lawyer to the Plaintiffs, Mudi Irhenede hailed the court for the judgement which he said will help to end impunity of state governors with regards to local government administration in the country.
According to him, “it is undemocratic and unlawful to conduct an election into the local government areas or council without availing the plaintiffs with the exact law that is meant to regulate the exercise.”
“There are a lot of other issues with non-compliance with the electoral act 2022. The electoral act 2022 said the procedures for conducting elections into the local government areas by state commissioners must comply with that procedure for conducting elections into area councils in the FCT.
“If you look at it, how do you access compliance without law if you hide the law with which you want to conduct the election is it not when you make the law public that we will know whether you complied with it or not, how can you be making laws and hiding them?
“My position now is that my clients demanded to be availed of this law, we came under the freedom of information act, we wrote to EBSIEC, we wrote the House of Assembly, we wrote to INEC, all of these bodies refused to provide us the law.”
Ruling bizarre, curious – Umahi
Reacting, Governor David Umahi described the ruling as curious and bizarre. Umahi in a statement by his Media Aide, Chooks Oko urged the people to remain calm as government was studying the ruling to determine the next line of action.
The statement read: “The attention of the Executive Governor of Ebonyi State, Engr. David N. Umahi has been drawn to the curious ruling of the Federal High Court sitting in Abakaliki Thursday nullifying the July 30, 2022, Local Government elections held across the state.
“It is on record that none of the grounds of the litigants included nullification of the election but the court bizarrely came up with such an order.
“The election, generally acknowledged as peaceful and orderly, produced our incoming leaders at the local government level having followed all laid-down procedures to the letter.
“Being law-abiding, the Governor enjoins all Ebonyians to go about their businesses peacefully while our Lawyers study the judgment to determine the best way forward.
“His belief in the judiciary as the bastion of justice and equity remains unshaken,” Umahi said.
With the nullification of the said election, the swearing in of the Chairmen and Councillors slated for September 1, 2022, may not hold.