The Federal High Court in Abuja will on November 7 decide if it will allow Mrs Natasha Akpoti of the Social Democratic Party to participate as a candidate in the November 16 governorship election in Kogi State.
Justice Folashade Ogunbanjo-Giwa picked the date for judgment after parties to the suit challenging SDP’s exclusion from the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission made their final submissions on Thursday.
Akpoti, her running mate, Adams Khalid, and SDP had, on October 3, jointly filed the suit after INEC refused to accept the nomination of Khalid as a replacement for Mohammed Yakubu, who was originally nominated for the position.
INEC was said to have rejected the party’s governorship nominations altogether on the grounds that Yakubu, whom the party sought to substitute as the governorship running mate, was not qualified on account of his age.
Arguing the plaintiffs’ case on Thursday, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Mr Ola Olanipekun (SAN), argued that only the court and not INEC had the power to disqualify a candidate from participating in an election.
He added that INEC’s refusal to allow the party to substitute its deputy governorship’s candidate was unlawful as the attempted substitution was done 45 days before the governorship election.
He also said the substitution followed a voluntary withdrawal of the originally nominated candidate with his letter of withdrawal sent to INEC as evidence.
In his reply, INEC’s lawyer, Tanimu Inuwa (SAN), argued in opposition to the suit that the plaintiffs, in a letter dated September 19, 2019, which was addressed to the INEC chairman, admitted that the original running mate was not qualified to contest the election on account of his age.
Inuwa urged the court to dismiss the suit.
In their suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1129/2019, the plaintiffs asked the court to declare that INEC’s letter with reference number LEG/PP/23/T/107 rejecting Mohammed Yakubu as SDP’s new deputy governorship candidate was unlawful and unconstitutional.
They also sought, among other prayers, “an order of mandatory injunction that the defendant (INEC) should place the names of the 1st and 2nd plaintiffs on its list of candidates for the 2019 Kogi State governorship election and further place the name and logo of the third plaintiff on the ballot paper for the 2019 Kogi State governorship election.”
Justice Ogunbanjo-Giwa fixed November 7 for judgment.