The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Thursday ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to accept and publish Godswill Akpabio’s name as the All Progressive Congress (APC) candidate for the 2023 Akwa Ibom North/West senatorial district.
Justice Emeka Nwite, in a judgment, held that INEC’s refusal to accept and publish Akpabio’s name was in contradiction with the law, having received the name from the APC as its valid candidate.
The judge, who said the electoral umpire acted illegally, said the commission lacked the power to have disqualified the second plaintiff (Mr Akpabio).
“I hereby declare that the defendant (INEC) to publish the name of the second plaintiff as the authentic candidate,” he said.
In the suit filed before Mr Nwite, the APC and Mr Akpabio are first and second plaintiffs, respectively, while INEC is the sole defendant.
INEC had recently cautioned the APC against its choice of candidate for the Akwa Ibom North-west senatorial seat. The commission said the name of the former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Akpabio, submitted by the party remained invalid until the party followed due process.
Udom Ekpoudom had emerged as the party’s candidate in the primary alleged to have been supervised by INEC officials in the constituency.
However, the party submitted the name of Akpabio in his place.
INEC spokesman Festus Okoye, in an interview, however, said the commission rejected the former minister because he was not the validly nominated candidate for the senatorial district.