The Julius Abure-led Labour Party has sent a petition to the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, over what he called alleged acts of dishonour and infamy being perpetrated by officials of the commission acting at the behest of agents of the All Progressives Congress, APC, to frustrate ongoing petitions at the tribunal in Lagos.
National Publicity Secretary of the Labour Party, Obiora Ifoh, said this in an open letter addressed to the INEC Chairman, which he read to the media, in Abuja, on Friday.
The party’s spokesman spoke against the backdrop of the face-off between two legal luminaries at Appeal Court in Lagos on Thursday, in a case involving a House of Representatives seat in Abia State.
Ifoh said, “Mr. Chairman sir, we therefore bring to your notice an ugly incident that happened yesterday, 19th day of October, 2023 at Lagos State, venue of the Appeal Court on the Appeal No. CA/OW/HR/AB/06/2023 between the Labour Party candidate, Hon. Amobi Ogah, who is the plaintiff and the All Progressives Congress candidate, Nkiruka Onyejeocha, who is the Respondent. INEC is also a Respondent in that matter.
“Hon. Ogah of the Labour Party contested and won with a large margin the Federal House of Representatives seat for Isikwuato/Umunneochi Federal Constituency, but his victory was annulled at the Election Tribunal, hence the resolve to approach the Appellate Court.
“Sir, what played out yesterday, 19th day of October, 2023, was unbelievable, hence we call on you to nip the development in the bud to avoid a messy situation. INEC had engaged a Senior Counsel, J.O. Asoluka (SAN), as its lawyers with a letter of authorisation to represent the commission.
“But at the commencement of the hearing at the Appeal Court, another lawyer surfaced with another letter of authority to take over the case of the self same INEC without prior notice to J.O Asoluka (SAN), that the new counsel had been engaged. They also did not see any need to inform the Plaintiff of the development as required by law. When the matter thus came up, a squabble ensued between the two counsels as to who had the authority of INEC to represent it in the case.
“Consequently present at the venue of the Appeal Court were some expelled members of Labour Party under the headship of Lamidi Apapa. Also present were some leaders of the APC who openly fraternize with the Apapa cohorts and who were openly boasting that they will purchase judgement at all cost. They also attempted unsuccessfully to hijack the legal representation of the Labour Party.
“Chairman sir, it has now dawned on us that the change of legal guard without properly notifying the interested parties was carefully orchestrated by the Commission in alliance with our opponents with the intention to stall proceedings at the Court of Appeal and frustrate our candidate’s appeal that was due for hearing on Thursday.”
He further said, “We are raising this alarm because time is of essence, even though, the collaborators achieved their intentions as the appeal could not be heard and was adjourned by the court to enable INEC put its house in order and determine who of the two counsels, has her authority to represent her in the appeal.
“We are therefore using this platform to urge you to investigate the inglorious roles which the legal department of the commission is playing and sanction erring officials. The role of INEC in this matter is simply to defend the outcome of the election which it conducted and on which it declared Hon. Amobi Ogah as the duly-elected candidate to represent Isikwuato/Umunneochi Federal Constituency in the National Assembly.
“The Commission must reject any semblance of compromise. Nigerians are still looking up to it to redeem its image, the aftermath of the controversial 2023 general elections. It must not allow a few pliable members of the Commission to further taint the integrity of the commission.”