Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Moves by Chief Emeka Atuma to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to recognise him as the All Progressives Congress, APC, flag bearer for the 2023 Abia Central senatorial poll, hit the rocks weekend, as a Federal High Court sitting in Katsina rejected his request.
The Court presided over by Justice E. M. Shittu Abubakar, struck out Atuma’s name from the list of APC candidates seeking to be uploaded by the party as its candidates.
The APC and 16 of its candidates had in an interlocutory Application, approached a state high court in Abia, claiming that they would suffer incalculable damage should INEC shut down its platform against them as it had already done following the expiration of the date for the submission of names of candidates as provided in the electoral body’s guidelines.
However, the member representing Ikwuano/Umuahia Federal Constituency, Hon Sam Onuigbo, who won the APC Abia Central senatorial primaries, opposed the appearance of Chief Atuma on the list of Applicants in the suit in Katsina as he (Atuma) is a defendant in another suit pending before a Federal High Court in Umuahia.
Even though the Katsina court turned down Onuigbo’s request to be joined in the suit, it also struck out Atuma’s name from the list of litigants to be recognised by INEC.
The botched attempt by APC to replace the name of Hon Sam Onuigbo with that of Atuma who never participated in the senatorial primaries had earlier led Atuma to obtain an order at an Abia State High Court, Nkwoagu Isuochi, Umunneochi, but INEC insisted on not recognizing the order of the state high court on the grounds that it lacks jurisdiction on the matter.
INEC’S action made Atuma to initiate the second legal tussle in a Katsina Federal High Court.
Ikengaonline reports that only Onuigbo and Chief Henry Ikoh participated in the May 28 and 29 senatorial primary of the APC for Abia Central as Senator Nkechi Nwogu withdrew from the race, while the late Chief KC Ugbaja could not turn up.
While Onuigbo scored 157 votes in the exercise duly monitored by INEC, Chief Ikoh who was recently sworn in as the Minister of State for Science and Technology, got 152 votes.
Onuigbo said that INEC had since June 20 2022, issued him a certified true copy of the result, but APC after its purported reconciliatory meeting between the Chief Ikechi Emenike camp and some members of the faction loyal to Dr Uche Ogah, claimed it had adopted Atuma as the senatorial candidate for Abia Central.
Both Onuigbo and Ikoh opposed the move as Atuma never contested in the senatorial primaries but only came second in the parallel governorship primaries by Emenike’s camp.
Hon. Onuigbo insists that he is the rightful candidate of the party having won the highest number of votes at the primaries.