Disqualification Axe Dangles on PDP’s Mbah over Violation of Electoral Act

Alleged Violation of Electoral Act in Conduct of Governorship Primary: PDP Candidate Faces Disqualification Threat

Disqualification Axe Dangles on PDP Gov Candidate, Mbah as All Eyes Fixed on Justice Ogunbanjo of Fed High Court, EnuguThe Peoples Democratic Party is allegedly mounting pressure on the Judiciary over the suit before Justice F.O Ogunbanjo seeking to disqualify its flag bearer, Mr Peter Mbah from contesting the 2023 governorship elections

By Chike Sabastine Ikeogu ,Esq

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Enugu State is currently facing a serious legal challenge to its ability to participate in the 2023 general elections following the suit instituted by one Mr. Chika Idoko who is the Senatorial candidate of African Democratic Congress (ADC) in Enugu North Senatorial Zone and of which LP has applied for a joinder.

The suit is seeking for an order of the court restraining the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from reorganising any of the PDP’s candidates in Enugu State for all the positions in the 2023 general elections.

The crux of the Plaintiff’s case against  the PDP in Suit No.FHC/EN/CS/177/22 pending before Hon. Justice F.O Ogunbanjo of the Federal High Court No. 2 Enugu is that the PDP in Enugu State failed to comply with the mandatory provisions of Sections 77(2)(3)  and 82( 1)(5) of the Electoral Act, 2022.

For an easy understanding, Section 77(2) of the new Electoral Act provides that:
“Every registered political party shall maintain a register of its members in both hard and soft copy”

Section 77(3) of the Electoral Act provides thus:
“Each political party shall make such register available to the commission NOT LATER THAN 30 DAYS BEFORE the date fixed for the party primaries, congresses or convention”.

Section 82(1) of the Act on the other hand provides that:
“Every registered political party shall give the Commission at least 21 days’ notice of any convention, congress, conference or meeting convened for the purpose of merger…or nominating candidates for any of the elective offices specified under this Act”

Section 82( 5) of the Act further stipulates that:
“FAILURE of a political party to notify the Commission as stated in subsection(1) shall RENDER the convention, congress, conference or meeting INVALID”.
It therefore follows that delegates emanating from invalid congress or convention is in law null and void.

Then Section 84(13) of the Electoral Act stipulates that :
“where a political party fails to comply with the provisions of this Act in the conduct of its primaries, its candidates for the elections shall  not be included in the election for the particular position in issue”.

The critical issue for determination before the honourable court as presented by the Plaintiffs is whether PDP has complied with the mandatory provisions of Sections 77(3) and  82(1) of the Act; and if not, what is the effect of such non-compliance with the provisions of the law?

The Plaintiff’s case before the honourable court is that PDP gave notice  of its congress for nomination of its candidates for the various elective offices less than 21 days as required by the law and also submitted the register of its members in Enugu State on 6th May,2022 and conducted its primaries on 22,23rd and 24th May,2022 which means that its primary elections were conducted between 17-19 days after the submission of the register of its members contrary to  the mandatory provisions of Section 77(3) of the  Act. This is the case before the Court and there is no doubt that PDP is in deep trouble because a declaration by the Court that PDP did not comply with the said Sections 77(3) and 82(1) of the Act will render null and void the congress and nomination of all the candidates of the party; and bar it from participating in the next year’s  general elections.

It is trite  that where the words used in a statute is clear and unambiguous, it is the duty of the court to give such words their ordinary meaning.  I submit that the provisions of the above sections of the Electoral Act are clear and unambiguous and as such the court is duty bound to interpret the words used in those sections to give them their ordinary meanings to the effect that the failure of PDP to comply with the provisions of Sections 77(3) and 82(1) rendered null and void both the congresses and the primaries conducted in accordance with the provisions of Sections 82(5) and 84(13) of the Act respectively.

In the case of SHELIM vs.GOBANG (2009) 37 WRN 32 @47, the Court of Appeal held that :
“if an act is void, then, it is in law a nullity. It is not only bad but incurrably bad. There is no need for an order of the court to set it aside”. “It is automatically null and void without ado, though it is sometime convenient to have the court declare it to be so. And every proceedings which is founded on it is also bad and incurably bad. You cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stay there. It will collapse”.

Therefore,  it is my humble submission that by the community reading  of the express provisions of Sections 77(3), 82(1)(5)  & 84(13) of the Electoral Act, the failure of the PDP to give the required statutory notice of its convention/congress for nomination of its candidates and also their failure to submit the register of its members 30 days before  the primary elections to the INEC as statutorily required, rendered null and void the PDP’s congresses and  primary elections for nomination of its candidates for Governorship, Senate, House of Representatives and House of Assembly in Enugu State for the 2023 general elections.

What is now agitating the minds of every keen political observer in Enugu is whether the clear and unambiguous provisions of the Electoral Act will be  given its  literal interpretions  and justice  served  according the law, or whether the judge will be compromised?

It is no longer news that the PDP led government in Enugu State is master in manipulation. The party in its notoriety is said to have been making frantic efforts to ensure that they thwart the cause of justice in the matter. The party leadership including Ugwanyi’s men friday are seen every day hovering around the court where the matter is pending seeking how they would buy the court. The PDP is suspected to be plotting to drag the judiciary to public odium by  boasting that they would buy the judgement come what may. One wonders why Enugu PDP believes that it could compromise the judiciary in this case?  What is making PDP to believe that the judge handling this case can be compromised  even when  they know that the case is before a woman of conscience and character who is determined to write her name in gold in the book of judicial integrity like other incorruptible judges who sat on similar cases in Rivers and Zamfara states in 2019.

Recall that in the build up to 2019 general elections, similar infractions of the Electoral Act occurred in Rivers’ APC which led to the disqualification of all APC candidates in Rivers State in the 2019 general  elections as well as in Zamfara which led to the disqualification of all the APC candidates in the state even after the conduct of the 2019 general elections.

The facts of the present case of PDP might not be on all fours with the Rivers and Zamfara APC’s cases but the principle of law  enunciated in those two case and plethora of other cases which bothers on the effect of non-compliance with and/or disobedience to law is applicable to the instant case of the PDP.

The world is watching and Justice Ogunbanjo should guard against the banana peels which PDP might throw on her path.
* Chike Sebastine Ikeogu esq wrote from Enugu

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