Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), National Assembly (NASS) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) have been jointly dragged before a Federal High Court in Abuja over their adoption of staggered elections scheduled for the 2019 general elections.
In suit marked FHC/ABJ/207/2018, Hope Democratic Party (HDP), which instituted the action is asking the court to void and set aside the scheduled staggered elections recently announced by the electoral body for allegedly contravening Sections 76, 116, 132 and 178 of the 1999 Constitution and Section 25 of the Electoral Act, 2010.
The party wants the court to determine whether by virtue of the provision of the amendment Electoral Act, 2010, the INEC, NASS and AGF were not under a duty and obligation to electronically hold and conduct the scheduled 2019 general elections into the offices of the president, National Assembly, governorship and state Houses of Assembly the same day in any order or sequence they may choose to conduct the elections on the appointed date.
The party through its counsel, Mr. Raphael Nweke Ekene is, therefore, praying the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the three defendants, their agents, servants and privies from engaging, planning or conducting any form of staggered general election under any guise in the forthcoming 2019 general elections.
HDP also sought order directing the defendants to undertake and ensure the holding of all elections in 2019 by electronic devices, including card readers.
This, according to the party, is to allow equal participation, certainty of planning and ease of results and to eliminate and reduce costs, logistics and unnecessary expenses within the limits of election expenses provided by law.
Besides, the party also prayed the court to set aside the letter of AGF and INEC dated January 11, 2018 notifying political parties of the staggered elections for 2019 on the ground that the letters and staggered elections were unconstitutional, oppressive, abuse of power and ultra vires.
In a 20-paragraph affidavit in support of the originating summons, the plaintiff claimed to be a registered political party and had participated in the previous staggered general elections outside the proposed general elections and that it has interest in the conduct of a free and fair general election within the ambit of international best practices at the forthcoming 2019 general election.
The affidavit deposed to by a lawyer, Ipinu Emmanuel averred that the defendants have since 1999 been inconsistent in adhering strictly to and holding any proper general elections, but resorted to a form of staggered general elections at different dates and shifting order and sequence of elections at will and to their advantage.
The affidavit indicated that the present day reality and harsh economic situation and limited resources of participating political parties and their sponsored candidates favoured the conduct of all the elections into various offices in one appointed date to save costs, curtail election expenses and make elections affordable to parties.
Besides, the affidavit said that apart from saving costs, a one-day election in any sequence would ensure victory and emergence of good candidates for good governance.
Meanwhile, no date has yet been fixed for hearing of the suit.