LG ELECTION HANGS IN A BALANCE AS AKWA IBOM HIGH COURT RULES

There is a feeling of uncertainty as it concerns fixed local government election in Akwa Ibom State.

This follows a chronicled events that occurred today at Akwa Ibom State High Court between Accord Party and Akwa Ibom State Independent Electoral Commission.

Below is the chronicle as promoted by the opposition party supporters in the state.

ACCORD (A)  v.  AKWA IBOM STATE INDEPENDENT
ELECTORAL COMMISSION (AKISIEC)

Legal fireworks resumed at the High Court of Akwa Ibom State on the 10th September, 2020 before the Hon. Justice Ntong F. Ntong sitting as the Vacation Court in Uyo. In the Originating Summons dated the 31st August, 2020 the Accord Party is challenging the proposed AKISIEC Local Government elections due for the 31st October, 2020 and seeking the determination of the following questions from the High Court:

1. Whether the Defendant is obliged by law to Update the Voters Register and make same available to the Plaintiff in accordance with Section 15 of the Electoral Act, 2010 for every Local Government election to be conducted by the Defendant.
2. Whether the procedure outlined in sections 19 and 20 of the Electoral Act, 2010 do not apply mutatis mutandi to the Defendant in its quest to conduct the Local Government Council elections in Akwa Ibom State and whether its failure to comply thereby do not constitute serious infraction of the relevant law.
. 3. Whether the provision of section 10 of the Electoral Act, 2010 relating to the continuous registration of Voters by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is not obligatory and whether the failure or neglect of the Defendant to comply with section 10 of the Electoral Act, 2010 would not warrant a restraining Order against the proposed election by the Defendant to the Local Government Councils of Akwa Ibom State.
4. Whether the 1st Defendant can competently charge the Plaintiff or any Political Party and its candidates fees for participation in any Local Government elections, without statutory authorization. 
ACCORD Party seeks the following reliefs:

1. A DECLARATION that the Notice issued hiLocal Government Council elections in Akwa Ibom State for 31st October, 2020 and preparations pursuant thereto is incompetent, illegal, null and void and of no effect whatsoever;
2. An order setting aside the Defendant’s requirement that the Plaintiff and its candidates pay the sum of N250,000.00 (Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand) as a condition to participate in its elections;
3. AN ORDER of injunction restraining the Defendants, their agents, privies or assigns from carrying into effect the Notice for the conduct of elections complained of and setting aside the programme for the proposed Local Government elections of the 31st October, 2020
At the resumed hearing of the matter on the 10th September, 2020, Accord Party, represented by its Chairman, PRINCE JOSEPH JAMES, stood his ground; insisting that the –

1. Notices and Guidelines for the Election issued by AKISIEC are bones of contention by the Plaintiff for the following reasons:
a) The Voters List, necessary for use in conducting the proposed Local Government Elections is yet to be updated and circulated to the Political Parties, including the Plaintiff.

b) The imposition of the sum of N250,000.00 (Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira) by the Defendant is not provided for in the Akwa Ibom State Independent Electoral Commission (AKISIEC) Law, 2007 and the Defendant’s insistence on the collection of the Deposit is intolerable, illegal and oppressive.

c) The names and addresses of registered Voters have not been published and circulated to the Plaintiff as is customary before any elections can be held.

d) That the creation of a total of 368 (Three hundred and sixty-eight) Wards intended to be used for the Local Government Elections in contemplation warranted the updating of the Voters Register as mandated by the Electoral Act, 2010.

e) That the AKISIEC could not conduct elections incorporating new Wards without a new Register of Voters to accommodate the adjustments to the Wards.

In his arguments for the Accord Party, Chief Victor Iyanam, one time Attorney General, Akwa Ibom State, appearing with Ubong Offiong, Esq. the Local Government elections were clearly in breach of sections 10 (3), 15, 19 and 20 respectively prescribing: 60 days for updating the Electoral Register every year; publication of the Voters Register. Learned Counsel insisted that since section 19 of the AKISIEC Law 2007 donated all the electoral powers to INEC, the defendant could not shy away from implementing the demands of its own law and urged the High Court to grant all the reliefs sought by Accord Party. In his reply, the Hon. Attorney General, Uwem Nwoko who appeared with the Director of Civil Litigation, Bassey Ekanem, Esq. and Sharon Eddie, Esq. insisted that since the procedure adopted by AKISIEC was not different from what obtained in other States that even just recently concluded their Local Government elections, the Court should dismiss the Plaintiff’s claims.

The Court has fixed judgment for the 18th September, 2020.

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