THE Federal High Court in Kano has declared the votes polled by the Abia State governor-elect, Mr Alex Otti, in the March governorship election as wasted.
In the judgement delivered by Justice M. N. Yunusa on Thursday, other Labour Party candidates for various elective positions in Abia and Kano States in the 2023 general elections were also affected.
Justice Yunusa cited the failure of the Labour Party to submit its membership registers to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) preparatory to the party’s primary election as the basis for his verdict.
“That the failure of the 1st defendant to submit its register of members in Kano State and Abia State is in crass breach of the provisions of section 77(3) of the Electoral Act, 2022, and the purported Primary Elections of the 1st defendant is invalid, null and void and of no effect,” Justice Yunusa held in a suit filed by one Ibrahim Haruna Ibrahim.
Ibrahim had contended in the suit that under section 77(3) of the Electoral Act, Labour Party ought to submit its membership registers to INEC 30 days before its primary elections in Kano and Abia States.
Justice Yunusa held that “the void primary elections of the 1st defendant cannot produce eligible candidates to be sponsored by the 1st defendant in the general election, and the participation of the candidates of the 1st defendant in the election in Kano State and Abia State is of no moment and waste of time.”
He further held that “the votes cast for all the candidates of the 1st defendant in Kano State and Abia State in the General Elections of 2023 are wasted.”
Justice Yunusa in his judgement however refused to nullify the certificate of return issued to Alex Otti as the winner of the Abia governorship poll, although the plaintiff prayed for the order in his 9th prayer.
Justice Yunusa also refused to grant the plaintiffs 10th prayer asking the court to order the INEC to declare as the winner the first runners-up in all the elections in Abia and Kano states which Labour Party candidates were declared returned as elected.
According to the Justice Yunusa, the candidates that came second in the election were not parties in the suit before him and therefore “this court, as such, lacks the jurisdiction to make an order for the issuance of certificate of return to them.”
The court held that the candidates “are, however, at liberty to seek the said redress in the appropriate division of the court.”
Otti, the candidate of the Labour Party in the March 18 governorship election in Abia State, was declared winner of the exercise by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on March 22, 2023. He won 10 of the 17 local government areas in the state to win the governorship election after polling a total of 175,467 votes.
His Peoples Democratic Party counterpart, Okey Ahiwe, polled 88,529 votes, while Enyinnaya Nwafor of the Young Peoples Party came in third with 28,972 votes.