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20.11.2023 Featured Tinubu Gets Lawsuit for Appointing APC Loyalists as INEC RECs

Published 20th Nov, 2023

By Sodeeq Atanda

The Social-Economic Rights Accountability Project (SERAP), BudgIT and 34 accountability groups have filed an action against the appointment of four alleged members of the All Progressives Congress as top officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by President Bola Tinubu.

A statement issued by the public accountability groups and made available to FIJ on Sunday revealed that the suit was assigned number FHC/L/CS/2353/2023 by the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos State on Friday. However, a hearing date has not been fixed yet.

The plaintiffs are challenging the alleged political partisanship of the four of the 10 nominees the president recently forwarded to the Senate for confirmation as resident electoral commissioners of INEC.

READ ALSO: APC Supporter Accused of N22bn Theft Among New RECs Appointed by Tinubu

The affected nominees are Etekamba Umoren (Akwa Ibom), Isah Shaka Ehimeakne (Edo), Anugbum Onuoha (Rivers) and Bunmi Omoseyindemi (Lagos).

Among others, the plaintiffs are seeking the following reliefs: “an order of mandamus to compel President Tinubu and Senate President Mr. Godswill Akpabio to remove the alleged APC members as RECs for INEC, in line with Section 157 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended)” and “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Tinubu to appoint qualified Nigerians who are persons of unquestionable integrity and a non-member of a political party or loyalist to the positions of RECs for INEC, in line with paragraph 14(3)(b)(c), Third Schedule and Section 156 of the Nigerian Constitution.”

They argued that the independence of INEC is central to the conduct of free and fair elections and democracy in the country. “The status, powers, independence of INEC and the impartiality with which it acts and is seen to be allowed to act are fundamental to the integrity of Nigeria’s elections and effectiveness of citizens’ democratic rightsl,” the group said.

“The credibility and legitimacy of elections depend mostly on the independence and impartiality of those appointed to manage the process. Without an independent and impartial INEC, the democratic rights of Nigerians would remain illusory.”

“Nigeria’s electoral body must enjoy the independence from direction or control, whether from the government or any other quarter. It must be accountable to the electorate and act accordingly.”

Joined in the suit as defendants are INEC, Akpabio, (for himself and on behalf of the Senate), Umoren, Ehimeakne, Onuoha, and Omoseyindemi.

Meanwhile, FIJ recently reported that Umoren is a strong political ally of Akpabio, being the state government secretary during Akpabio’s time as the governor of Akwa Ibom State under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

READ ALSO: SERAP Sues INEC for Failing to Prosecute Ekiti Vote Buyers

Udom Emmanuel succeeded Akpabio as the state governor and Umoren sustained his secretary position. However, he would soon be fired because Akpabio, who originally appointed him, decamped to the APC.

His allegiance to the APC and Akpabio further came to the fore when he protested Akpabio’s loss in the 2019 Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District election. He said, “APC candidates won at the fields and collation centres but lost in the process of declaring the results by INEC officials; this is unacceptable to us. We have all the evidence and I want to assure you that Senator Akpabio will reclaim his mandate at the tribunal,” Umoren said in March 2019.

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Published 20th Nov, 2023

By Sodeeq Atanda

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