Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Alleged Exclusion: INEC insists Al-Mustapha represented Action Alliance, defeated by Tinubu

The commission stated this in its reply to a petition marked: CA/PEPC/01/2023 filed by AA and Solomon-David Okanigbuan, the first and second petitioners, respectively.

• April 16, 2023
INEC, Action Alliance
INEC, Action Alliance

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has told the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) sitting in Abuja that retired Maj. Hamza Al-Mustapha was the duly sponsored presidential candidate of Action Alliance (AA) in the February 25 election.

INEC, through its team of lawyers led by Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN, insisted that though Mr Al-Mustapha participated in the election, he was defeated alongside16 other candidates by Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The commission stated this in its reply to a petition marked: CA/PEPC/01/2023 filed by AA and Solomon-David Okanigbuan, the first and second petitioners, respectively.

The petitioners had dragged INEC, APC, Messrs Tinubu and Al-Mustapha to court as first to fourth respondents, respectively.

Mr Al-Mustapha, a former CSO to late Gen. Sani Abacha, was a factional presidential candidate nominated by Kenneth Udeze-led leadership of AA for the poll.

Mr Okanigbuan also emerged as a factional presidential candidate of the Adekunle Omo-Aje-led leadership of AA.

While INEC recognised and published Mr Al-Mustapha’s name as the party’s presidential candidate, Mr Okanigbuan’s name was not uploaded by the commission for the poll.

The petitioners, however, alleged that their candidate was excluded from the presidential poll, based on which the election should be voided.

Responding, INEC described the petition as being incompetent, praying the court to dismiss it.

The commission argued that the petition was not only fundamentally defective but was irredeemably flawed.

It said that the petitioners alleged unlawful exclusion of their presidential candidate from the poll.

The electoral umpire argued that even though the ground of non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2022, was a valid ground for questioning an election, “there are no facts upon which the alleged non-compliance is predicated (by the petitioners), thereby rendering the complaint vague, bare, academic and vexatious.”

It submitted that having fully participated in the election and having fielded Mr Al-Mustapha (fourth respondent) as its presidential candidate and scored 14,542 votes, AA (first petitioner) lacked the locus to question the election on grounds of wrongful exclusion.

INEC said though it admitted that AA was a registered political party in the country, it disagreed that Mr Okanigbuan was its sponsored candidate.

It averred that AA, through its National Executive Committee (NEC), nominated and forwarded the name of Mr Al-Mustapha (fourth respondent) as its presidential candidate for the election.

It said it would rely on the nomination forms submitted by the party, nominating Mr Al-Mustapha as its candidate for the poll during the petition trial.

“The 1st petitioner (AA) had two factions, namely: One faction chaired by Barr. Kenneth Udeze, whilst the other faction has Sir Adekunle Rufai Omo-Aje as its chairman.

“Whilst not in the know of the leadership tussle within the first petitioner, the first respondent (INEC) received and published the nomination of candidates for the 2023 general election submitted by the Barr. Kenneth Udeze-led faction of the first petitioner.

The commission argued that it was the political parties that contest elections and not candidates.

INEC insisted that the election was free, fair, credible and in compliance with the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Act 2022, and other relevant laws and guidelines for poll conduct.

It further said that the declaration and return of Mr Tinubu were lawful, and there was no basis for the nullification of the same or ordering fresh election to be conducted.

The commission also prayed the tribunal to dismiss separate petitions filed by the Action Peoples Party (APP) and the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) against Mr Tinubu’s victory.

APP had sued Mr Tinubu, APC and INEC in court as first to third respondents, respectively, in its petition number: CA/PEPC/02/2023.

APM, in its petition, marked: CA/PEPC/04/2023, joined INEC, APC, Mr Tinubu, Kashim Shettima and Kabir Masari, who stood as a vice-presidential placeholder during the primaries before he was substituted with Mr Shettima, as first to fifth respondents respectively.

The parties are challenging the presidential election outcome because of alleged substantial non-compliance with the electoral laws and INEC’s guidelines.

According to INEC, issues relating to the qualifications of candidates as the basis of the validity of nominations in any election are pre-election matters instituted at the Federal High Court before elections are conducted following the publication by the 1st respondent (INEC) of the list of candidates for elective positions.

(NAN)

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