A Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to accept the nomination of the Labour Party (LP) candidates in 24 States of the Federation for the 2023 general elections.
The Court ordered that INEC must accept the list of candidates in the 24 States either manually or through its electronic nomination portal.
The trial Judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo, in his judgments in the 24 different suits brought before him by Labour Party, held that INEC violated Sections 31, 33, and 36 of the Electoral Act 2022 in rejecting the Labour Party’s candidates in the affected States on the ground of nonfunctional of its nomination portal.
The 24 States affected by the Court order are Kwara, Plateau, Nasarawa, Lagos, Kaduna, Oyo, Benue, Bauchi, Ebonyi, and Ekiti States.
The rest are Katsina, Bayelsa, Niger, Rivers, Sokoto, Akwa Ibom, Gombe, Borno, Osun, Adamawa and Cross River States, among others.
The Labour Party had, in November last year conducted substitution nominations for its candidates who withdrew from the 2023 general elections in the affected states.
The withdrawals were communicated to INEC by the National Chairman and National Secretary of the party, along with notification of the October 27 date to conduct substitution nomination primary elections.
However, when uploading the fresh candidate’s names, INEC claimed its nomination portal was faulty and declined to accept the candidate’s list manually, prompting 24 legal actions.
Justice Ekwo, in the judgment, said that the evidence of the Labour Party through exchanged letters with INEC in the nomination issue was credible and proceeded to attach probative value to it.
The Judge held that the consequences of a nonfunctional electronic nomination portal could not be visited on the Labour Party.
Justice Ekwo agreed with the Labour Party that nomination and submission of the candidate’s list cannot be rejected by INEC from any party until 90 days before the general elections.
The Judge said that the time the Labour Party sought to submit a list of its candidates in the 24 States was more than 90 days before the 2023 general elections. Hence, it is within the time allowed by law.
Justice Ekwo held that INEC was bound to accept the Labour Party’s candidates list manually once its electronic nomination portal is faulty and subsequently ordered INEC to open its website to allow the Labour Party to submit the list of its candidates or accept same manually with immediate effect for the 2023 general elections.