Court orders INEC to accept LP candidates in Lagos, Kano, Rivers, 21 other states

The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to accept the nomination of candidates of the Labour Party (LP) in 24 states of the federation for the 2023 general elections.

Justice Inyang Ekwo gave the order on Thursday while delivering 24 different judgments in 24 different suits brought before him by the party.

The judge 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 grounds of non functioning of its nomination portal.

The court asked the electoral umpire to accept the list of the candidates in the 24 States either manually or through its electronic nomination portal.

Mr Ekwo held 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.

He said that the consequences of a non-functional electronic nomination portal could not be visited on the Labour Party.

He agreed with the submissions of the party that nomination and submission of candidates list could not be rejected by INEC from any party until 90 days to the general elections.

The court said that the time the Labour Party sought to submit the list of its candidates in the 24 states was more than 90 days to the 2023 general elections, and so it was within the time allowed by law.

Mr Ekwo held that INEC was bound to accept the party’s candidates’ list manually if its electronic nomination portal was faulty.

He subsequently ordered INEC to open its website for the purpose of allowing the Labour Party to submit the list of its candidates or accept the same manually with immediate effect for the purpose of the 2023 general elections.

The 24 states affected include; Bayelsa, Niger, Rivers, Sokoto, Akwa Ibom, Gombe, Borno, Osun, Adamawa and Cross Rivers.

Others are Benue, Bauchi, Ebonyi Ekiti, Kwara, Plateau, Katsina, Nasarawa, Lagos, Kaduna and Oyo states among others.

The Labour Party told the court that in November 2022, it substituted candidates who withdrew from the 2023 general elections in the affected states.

The party told the court that the withdrawals were communicated to INEC by the National Chairman and National Secretary of the party.

This, the party said, was done along with notification of the October 27 date to conduct substitution nomination primary elections.

However, at the point of uploading the fresh candidates names, INEC claimed that its nomination portal was faulty and declined to accept the candidates list manually and this led to the filing of 24 suits.