Court dismisses AAC’s suit against Rivers election

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A Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed a suit by the African Action Congress (AAC), querying the propriety of handling of the last governorship and State Assembly elections in Rivers State, particularly as it relates to its announcement of the results, by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a judgment on Tuesday said since the case was about an election that has been held, it was appropriate for the plaintiffs to take their case before an election tribunal.

The suit, marked FHC/ ABJ/CS/303/2019, has AAC, Engr Biokpomabo Festus Awara and Pastor (Dr.) Ben-Gurion John Peter as plaintiffs, with INEC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The plaintiffs noted INEC had earlier admitted that the election in Rivers State was marred with substantial violence that compromised the credibility of the entire process, and thereby suspended the election.

They added that without calling for a fresh election, INEC announced, via a press release, that it was now set to continue with the election from Wednesday, 20th March 2019.

The plaintiffs prayed the court for, among others, an order cancelling the already held governorship and state assembly’s elections and an order directing the conduct of fresh elections.

Justice Ekwo, in the judgment, said the reliefs sought by the plaintiff’s, which include prayers for the cancellation of the election already held and the stoppage of further collation of results of the election, are post-election in nature.

He said such prayers, on which the electoral tribunal has exclusive jurisdiction, could not be entertained by the regular courts.

The judge said his court has no jurisdiction to grant any of the prayers contained in the plaintiffs’ originating process.

He said the court has earlier held in a similar case, that once an election has been held, the Federal High Court no longer has jurisdiction to entertain and determine any litigation touching on such election.

Justice Ekwo said the case by the AAC and others was an attempt to litigate election issues in disguise.

He said the hearing the case will amount to an attempt by the court to constitute itself into an election tribunal, “a capability it does not have constitutionally.

“I find that issues in this case are post-election in nature and do not belong to the realm of this court.

“Therefore, the preliminary objection of the second defendant in this case succeeds and accordingly, I declare no jurisdiction.

“Now, it is the law that where the preliminary objection succeeds, there is no need to go further to consider arguments in support other issues or issues for determination.

“So, at this point, I make an order dismissing this case for want of jurisdiction,” Justice Ekwo said.

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