An Enugu-based pro-democracy group, Enugu Good Governance Group (E-3G), has faulted the judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja, ordering the Labour Party (LP) to conduct a fresh governorship primary election in Enugu State, saying the court overreached itself, as the legal timeframe for conduct of primary elections had since elapsed.
The group maintained that having not complied with the relevant Sections of the Electoral Act 2022 by, among others, allegedly excluding Chief Evarest Nnaji, LP had shot itself in the foot and lost its right to field a candidate in 2023 governorship election in Enugu State.
In a statement released on Sunday by its National Coordinator, Comrade Odinaka Okechukwu, the pro-democracy group urged the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), and other parties with governorship candidates in Enugu State as well as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to appeal the judgment.
“The Electoral Act is deliberate and clear that every party must conclude its primary election not later than 150 days to the governorship election. But the period from the date of the court judgment on November 9, 2022 to the governorship election scheduled to take place on March 11, 2023, is about 122 days.
“Section 84 (13) of the Act unequivocally provides, ‘Where a political party fails to comply with the provisions of this Act in the conduct of its primaries, its candidate for election shall not be included in the election for the particular position in issue’.
“Therefore the Federal High Court cannot, by default, change the provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act. If the law says you must conduct primary elections at a given time, before you can go against it, you must bring application before the court to set aside the provisions, and there is no such application or ruling and, to that extent, the court lacks the powers to gift LP additional time outside the timeframe already set by the law, especially when LP failed to comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act in the first place.
“Instructively, about the same day, a Federal High Court in Guzau annulled the PDP governorship primary in Zamfara State for non-compliance with the Electoral Act and consequently declared that the PDP would field no candidate in the 2023 Zamfara governorship election.
“The reverse effect of the Federal High Court, Abuja, judgment in shifting the legally-set timeframe for conduct of primary election in the case of Enugu LP is both promotion of anarchy and double standard.
“We, therefore, call on INEC and every party, including the PDP and APGA, that fielded governorship candidates in the forthcoming election in Enugu State to challenge the judgment.
“Ordinarily, primaries are businesses of political parties, but since the LP failed to play by the law and the court partially failed in its duty of proper interpretation of the law, INEC and other parties now have ample locus to challenge the judgment gifting LP additional time to conduct another governorship primary in Enugu within 12 days”, the statement read.
The group added that the non-compliance to the Electoral Act in the election of its candidate, coupled with the alleged forgery of signatures and court documents in the replacement of the candidate of LP for Enugu North senatorial district, Mr. Ernest Ugwu, with Chief Okey Ezea, had further exposed the lawlessness of the LP leadership.
“The best way to cure the lawlessness of our politicians and political parties is to apply the law ipso facto or exactly as it is”, the group insisted.