The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Friday sacked Mr Atule Egbunu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the lawmaker representing Ibaji constituency of Kogi State.
Egbunu, who was declared the winner of the election on account of his 8,515 votes, was removed as a lawmaker by the court from the State House of Assembly on the ground that he was unlawfully nominated by the party.
The trial Judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo, while delivering judgment in a suit filed by Joseph Enemona against APC and four others, declared Daniel Enefola of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the lawmaker for Ibaji constituency, having come second with 4,564 votes in the December 5, 2020 by-election held in the state.
Enemona, a state House of Assembly aspirant on the platform of the APC had dragged the party to court, challenging the legality of the September 3, 2020, primary election claimed to have been conducted by his party.
His grouse, among others, was that the party excluded six other aspirants from the primary election and also did not allow delegates to vote at the poll.
Plaintiff further asserted that while the law stipulated that the primary election be conducted at the party secretariat in Onyedega, the APC officials allegedly conducted a purported primary election in a mall.
He further contended that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was not given 21 days notice before the purported primary election and as mandatorily required by Section 85 of Electoral Act, 2010.
Plaintiff further hinged his case on the ground that while the APC guidelines stipulated direct primary election, the APC officials manipulated the guidelines and purportedly used the indirect system to pick the purported candidate and demanded that the purported nomination of Egbunu be voided and another primary election be conducted.
However, Justice Ekwo, after reviewing submissions by parties in the matter, agreed that the APC did not conduct a primary election known to law.
The judge held that while seven aspirants were to participate in the primary election, the party unlawfully manoeuvred the system and allowed participation of a single candidate.
The court also held that the APC violated the law by conducting the purported primary election outside the party secretariat as required by law and also faulted the purported substitution done between Matthew Oguche and Atule Egbunu on the ground that Oguche was not one of the legitimate aspirants before the election.
Justice Ekwo, therefore, declared the purported APC primary election as illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional and subsequently set it aside.
The judge ruled that since the time for primary and nomination has lapsed, the candidate who came second in the December 5, 2020 by-election should be inaugurated as the lawmaker for Ibaji constituency.