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Court to hear suspended REC’s suit seeking INEC’s apology June 1 –

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The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has slated June 1, 2023 to hear a fundamental human rights suit filed by suspended Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Adamawa State, Hudu Yunusa-Ari where-in he gave reasons for declaring the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Senator Aisha Dahiru Ahmed winner of the last governorship election in the state.

Ari said in the suit filed through his Counsel, Jibrin Okutepa (SAN) that, he acted within his powers to announce the winner of the election based on valid results collated by the legally appointed and recognised collation officers for the election.

The suspended REC, now in custody of the police, said his action was meant to forestall a breakdown of law and order and to prevent further manipulation of the election process.

Ari stated in a fundamental rights enforcement suit he filed before the Federal High Court in Abuja, where-in he is praying among other reliefs, an order compelling INEC and other respondents to publicly apologize to him for allegedly engaging in a media trial against him.

He wants the apology published in two national dailies “for the unlawful and unconditional media trials and negative press interviews, press statements/releases, social media posts, publications etc against the applicant for carrying out his duties as the REC in Adamawa State during the supplementary governorship election held on April 15, 2023.”

In the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/563/2023, Ari also wants the court to restrain the respondents from further engaging in any form of media trial against him.

He claimed, in the suit that was filed before his arrest, that two INEC National Commissioners (whose names he failed to disclose) sent to the state for the supplementary election sidelined him in their efforts to compromise the election process.

Listed with INEC as respondents in the suit are the Inspector General of Police (IGP), the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Director of the Department of State Services (DSS).

Ari stated, in a supporting affidavit, that on the day of the election, some armed policemen from the state Government House stormed his house at about 10am and held him on house arrest to prevent him from engaging in his lawful duties.

According to him, “It took the intervention of the  Commissioner of Police, who sent Mobile Policemen to my house and when the policemen at my house heard that a call was made to the Commissioner of Police, the policemen from Government House fled in a White Toyota Hilux Van. 

 “In view of the time constraint and obvious risk to my life and to conclude the supplementary elections and to forestall the breakdown of law and order, I organized a meeting comprising my co-chair, who is the Commissioner of Police, Director of Security Services, Commandant of Civil Defense Corps, and others on the way forward. 

“The action of the National Commissioners and threats by political parties over the process of collating results created an atmosphere of violence that almost marred the election and most of the stakeholders were scared and refused to continue with the election process including the Returning Officer (RO). 

“I also organized a meeting with the Chairman of Inter-Party Advisory Council, in the person of Mr. Bello Babajo, who assured me that he would reach out to all the political parties to calm down the tension and to allow the process to be concluded swiftly. 

“It was based on the assurance of Mr. Bello Babajo, that I compiled all the polling unit results and declared the winner of the election based on the highest number of valid votes scored.

“The declaration that I made was done based on the breakdown of the valid votes scored by the two leading candidates in the supplementary election using the results from the polling units as collated into all relevant Forms EC8B, C, D and E respectively by properly and legally appointed and recognized Collation Officers and my humble self as Adamawa state Chief Collation Officer and Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC). 

“Prior to the declaration, there was an intelligence report made available to me that the two National Commissioners of the 5th respondent were at the Government House Yola, at 8:31pm on 15/04/2023 Adamawa State and held a meeting with the State Governor. 

“A staff of the DSS on  intelligence gathering on the money allegedly given to the National Commissioners was also disarmed, abducted, taken to Government House Yola and assaulted by police from Government House, Yola and thugs loyal to the PDP. 

“My action is within the responsibility vested on me and within the ambit of the law, particularly the Electoral Act 2022 as amended. 

“Since I did my job, the respondents herein have embarked on trying me on the media through press statements, interviews, social media posts, etc and this has been, is being and would be continued by the National Commissioner for Voters Education and Publicity, Mr Festus Okoye and other staff and officers of the 5th respondent (INEC) on behalf of 5th respondent, that I was guilty of criminal offence in the performance of my duties as the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of the 5th Respondent in Adamawa Sate during the supplementary governorship election held in Adamawa State on 15” April 2023 when I was not arraigned in court and found so guilty by any competent court of law. 

“This media trial is a gross violation of my rights to fair hearing and is illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional. 

“The media trial embarked upon with distorted facts by the respondents particularly the 5th respondent are intended to give me bad name as a cover up for the wrongs done by agents of the 5th respondent in the Adamawa supplementary governorship election held on the 15th April 2023.”

At the mention of the case on Wednesday, Okutepa told the court that all the respondents have been served with court presses, but were absent.

Okutepa said by the rule of the court, they were entitled to five days within which to respond, which expired on May 3 and prayed the court to grant a short adjournment for the hearing of the case.

In his ruling, Justice James Omotosho adjourned till June 1 and ordered that hearing notices should be served on the respondents.

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