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Politics

Edo Assembly crisis: Court bars INEC from conducting fresh election into 14 Assembly seats

Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Tuesday halted any plan to conduct fresh election in the 14 state constituency seats declared vacant by Edo Speaker Frank Okiye.

Justice Ahmed Mohammed

Okiye, who became Speaker in a controversial circumstance after the House was allegedly Inaugurated at about 9.00pm with nine out of the 24 members of the Assembly, had declared the 14 seats vacant after the members refused to show up to be inaugurated, insisting that a proper inauguration should be carried out.

Okiye and his group, who are loyal to Governor Godwin Obaseki went to court to stop a repeat of the inauguration and also to prevent the National Assembly from taking over the functions of the Assembly. Ruling on a motion ex-parte filed by Barristers Demian Dodo (SAN) on behalf of the 14 lawmakers, Justice Mohammed said the parties in the suit should maintain status quo ante pending the determination of the motion before the court.

While the 1st and 2nd defendants in the suit are Hon.Frank Okiye, and INEC respectively, the plaintiffs in tue suit before the court are Victor Edoror, Washington Osifo, Vincent Uwadiae, Kingsley Ugabi, Michael Ohio-Ezomo, Sunday Aghedo and Chris Okaeben, Crosby Eribo, Seidu Oshiomhole, Oshomah Ahmed, Ganiyu Audu, Ugiagbe Dumez, Uyi Ekhosuehi and Eric Okaka.

The Nation gathered that the 14 lawmakers had on Dec 12, 2019 approached the court, seeking an order of interim injunction restraining INEC from conducting the by-elections as ordered by the Speaker in respect of their seats in the state assembly after the seats were reportedly declared vacant on Dec. 4, 2019.

Justice Mohammed had directed the 1st and 2nd defendants to appear before the court on Dec. 19, 2019 to show cause why the interim injunction being sought by the plaintiffs vide their motion ex-parte should not be granted, but the court failed to seat.
He also ordered that the enrolled order to show cause, motion exparte for interim injunction, motion on notice for interlocutory injunction and the originating processes should be served on the respondents. Counsel to INEC, Femi Adeyemi, who acknowledged that the commission was served with all the processes, including the enrolled order, however said the commission was not served with the motion ex-parte.

Adeyemi told the court that INEC’s position on the matter was to be neutral, adding that the electoral umpire is not opposed to the applications filed by the plaintiffs.

“My Lord, our position is that we want to retain our neutrality,” he told the judge, adding that he had not file any affidavit in support of the commission’s position.

Justice Mohammed, however said that based on provisions of Order 26 Rules 11, 12 and 13 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, 2019, when a defendant is asked to come and show cause, the defendant is expected to file an affidavit in evidence and not an oral evidence.

“What you are telling me here is evidence. I understand you very well. You file an affidavit that you want to be neutral. File an affidavit and explain there even if it is a two paragraphs, but not to stand at the bar and explain,” the judge said.

The judge told Adeyemi that having decided not to oppose the applications filed by the lawmakers, the commission should restrain itself from taking further step since the matter was still pending in court. However, in his ruling, the judge ordered INEC to file an affidavit in support of its position and to show cause why the interim injunction should not be granted before the next adjourned date.

Justice Mohammed also ordered that the 1st defendant, Frank Okiye, who was not represented in court, be issued with the hearing notice and adjourned the matter till Jan. 28.

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