Huge respite came the way of the Labour Party ahead of the 2023 general elections on Thursday as Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to accept the nominations of candidates of the party in 24 states of the federation.
The court ordered that the electoral body must accept the list of the candidates, either manually or through its electronic nomination portal.
Delivering judgement, Justice Ekwo held that INEC violated Sections 31, 33 and 36 of the Electoral Act 2022 in rejecting the LP candidates in the affected states on the ground of non-functional of its nomination portal.
The 24 states affected by the court order are Kwara, Plateau, Nasarawa, Lagos, Kaduna, Oyo, Benue, Bauchi, Ebonyi and Ekiti states. Others are Katsina, Bayelsa, Niger, Rivers, Sokoto, Akwa Ibom, Gombe, Borno, Osun, Adamawa and Cross River States among others.
The Labour Party had last year November conducted substitution nomination for its candidates who withdrew from the 2023 general elections in the affected states.
The withdrawals were communicated to INEC by the National Chairman and National Secretary of the party along with notification of October 27 date to conduct substitution nomination primary elections.
However, at the point of uploading the fresh candidates names, INEC claimed that its nomination portal was faulty and declined to accept the candidates list manually promoting the 24 legal actions.
Justice Ekwo added that the evidence of the Labour Party through exchanged letters with INEC in the nomination issue was credible and proceeded to attach probative value to it.
The Judge held that the consequences of non functional electronic nomination portal cannot be visited on the Labour Party.
Justice Ekwo agreed with the Labour Party that nomination and submission of candidates list cannot be rejected by INEC from any party until 90 days to the general elections.
The judge said that the time the Labour Party sought to submit list of its candidates in the 24 States was more than 90 days to the 2023 general elections, hence, it is within time allowed by law.
Justice Ekwo held that INEC was bound to accept the Labour Party’s candidates list manually once its electronic nomination portal is faulty.
The judge subsequently ordered INEC to open its website for the purpose of allowing the Labour Party to submit list of its candidates or accept same manually with immediate effect for the purpose of the 2023 general elections.