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Court orders INEC to return Stephen Ntukekpo-led Akwa Ibom APC EXCO

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A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) to return Stephen Ntukekpo as state chairman of Akwa Ibom chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

In a judgment delivered by Justice Taiwo Taiwo, the court sacked the Augustine Ekanem-led Executive Committee Officers (EXCO) of APC, directing INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to them.

Justice Taiwo held that the inauguration of the Augustine Ekanem-led state EXCO of the party was an act of illegality.

The judge equally ordered the electoral body to issue a Certificate of Return to Uduakobong Peter Udoh and Uko Obonodo Ini as the state’s secretary and woman leader of the party respectively.

He made the declaratory orders while delivering judgment in the suit brought against the party, members of the National Caretaker Committee and INEC.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/635/2021 was filed by Stephen Ntukepo, Uduakobong Udoh and Uko Obonodo Ini.

They listed the APC, Governor Mai Mala Buni (National Chairman Caretaker/Extra ordinary Convention Planning Committee of APC); Sen. John Akpanudoedehe (Secretary caretaker/Extra ordinary conventional planning committee of the APC) and the INEC as 1st to 4th defendants respectively.

Taiwo declared the plaintiffs as the dully and democratically elected State Executive Committee Officers (EXCO) of the party in Akwa Ibom.

The court agreed with the submission of counsel to the plaintiffs, Umeh Kalu, SAN.

Citing the provisions of Section 223(1) (a) of the 1999 Constitution, Section 85 (3) of the Electoral Act 2010, Article 20 of the APC Constitution and the guidelines for the conduct of the APC state, he said, the defendants cannot refuse to recognise the plaintiffs who were dully elected at the APC Akwa-Ibom congress which held in Uyo, Akwa-Ibom state on Oct. 16, 2021, as members of the state’s Executive Committee of the APC.

He held that the act of the defendants to replace the plaintiffs who were dully and democratically elected at the party’s state congress, with unelected persons was null and void.

“That the purported substitution of the plaintiffs as members of the Akwa-Ibom State Executive Committee of the APC, with unelected persons chosen by the 1st to 3rd defendants, and, who did not participate at the state congress of the party held on Oct.16, 2021 is unlawful and illegal,” he said.

Taiwo ordered the INEC to deal with only the plaintiffs and no other persons in any form or guise as the dully and democratically elected members of the Akwa-Ibom EXCO of the APC.

He also made “an order restraining the 1st to 3rd defendants or whosoever, however, named from interfering with the functions of the plaintiffs as members of the state EXCO of the APC.”

The judge said that “for our democracy to grow, our constitution must serve as a red card to anyone who wants to derail it to satisfy his personal interest.”

He said that a political party cannot be allowed to act or conduct itself against its own constitution.

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