INEC attempting to frustrate Ogah’s appeal, LP cries out

Hon. Amobi Ogah

The Labour Party, LP, has accused the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, of allegedly collaborating with the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, to remove the member representing the Isikwuato/Umunneochi Federal Constituency, Abia State in the House of Representatives, Hon. Amobi Ogah.

The Telegraph recalls that the lawmaker who was earlier declared winner of the February 25 election was sacked by the National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Umuahia on September 29.

The Reps member, however, rejected the ruling by the tribunal and filed an appeal at the Appellate Court.

The hearing of the appeal was, however, stalled on Thursday following a drama that ensued at the Appeal Court in Lagos State.

According to an open letter to the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, issued on Friday by the LP’s National Publicity Secretary, Obiora Ifoh, there were squabbles in the courtroom following the alleged sudden decision of the electoral umpire, who is also a respondent in the case, to change its lawyer without prior notice.

The letter revealed that while the party opposed the sudden change, some supporters of the ruling APC and a faction of the LP backed the development, leading to the adjournment of the hearing.

Parts of the letter read, “Sir, what played out yesterday, 19th day of October, 2023, was unbelievable; hence, we call on you to nip the development in the bud to avoid a messy situation.

“INEC had engaged a Senior Counsel, J.O. Asoluka (SAN), as its lawyer with a letter of authorization to represent the Commission.

“But at the commencement of the hearing at the Appeal Court, another lawyer surfaced with another letter of authority to take over the case of the self-same INEC without prior notice to J.O Asoluka (SAN), that the new counsel had been engaged.

“They also did not see any need to inform the Plaintiff of the development as required by law. When the matter thus came up, a squabble ensued between the two counsels as to who had the authority of INEC to represent it in the case.

“Conspicuously present at the venue of the Appeal Court were some expelled members of the Labour Party under the headship of Lamidi Apapa. Also present were some leaders of the APC who openly fraternize with the Apapa cohorts and who were openly boasting that they will purchase judgment at all cost.

“They also attempted unsuccessfully to hijack the legal representation of the Labour Party.

“Chairman sir, it has now dawned on us that the change of legal guard without properly notifying the interested parties was carefully orchestrated by the Commission in alliance with our opponents with the intention to stall proceedings at the Court of Appeal and frustrate our candidate’s appeal that was due for hearing on Thursday.

“We are raising this alarm because time is of the essence, even though the collaborators achieved their intentions as the appeal could not be heard and was adjourned by the court to enable INEC put its house in order and determine who of the two counsels has her authority to represent her in the appeal.

“We are therefore using this platform to urge you to investigate the inglorious roles which the legal department of the Commission is playing and sanction erring officials.

“The role of INEC in this matter is simply to defend the outcome of the election which it conducted and in which it declared Hon. Amobi Ogah as the duly-elected candidate to represent Isikwuato/Umunneochi Federal Constituency in the National Assembly.

“The Commission must reject any semblance of compromise. Nigerians are still looking up to it to redeem its image in the aftermath of the controversial 2023 general elections. It must not allow a few pliable members of the Commission to further taint the integrity of the Commission.”