By Kenneth Atavti
Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday reversed the unlawful substitution of the Labour Party (LP’s) senatorial candidate for Enugu West Senatorial District, Hon Chukwuma Amadi.
The Judge while reversing the unlawful substitution affirmed that Amadi remains the candidate of the party unless he withdraws his candidacy or occurrence of death.
Delivering judgment in a suit instituted by Amadi against Labour to challenge his purported substitution, Justice Ekwo removed honourable Uchenna Ekwe, who was unlawfully nominated to replace the plaintiff.
Justice Ekwo invoked section 29, 31,32, 33 and 34 of the Electoral Act to nullify the substitution of the plaintiff.
In the judgment, the court held that by the provisions of Section 33 of the Electoral Act, 2022, political parties are not allowed to change or substitute their candidates whose names have been submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC) under Section 29 of the Act, except in the case of death or withdrawal by the candidate.
“I find that the plaintiff is neither dead nor had withdrawn his candidature as the Senatorial candidate of the Labour Party for Enugu West Senatorial District in the 2023 general elections.
“Having so found, I state that this case is not about the primary election of the Labour Party that produced Uchenna Ekwe but about whether or not, Amadi, the plaintiff in this case withdraw his candidature after having won the primary election that produced him for the same party”, he said.
The Judge therefore dismissed the argument of Labour Party and Uchenna Ekwe that the plaintiff has no locus standi pursuant to Section 84 of the Electoral Act, 2022 because he was not an aspirant in the second primary election that produced Ekwe.
“I will say that Ekwe has been duped by those who deceived him that there can be another primary election for Enugu West Senatorial District when Amadi was neither dead nor had withdrawn as a candidate.
” It is clear that those who contrived the purported letter of withdrawal by Amadi merely deceived Ekwe and nothing more. It is the law in Section 33 of the Electoral Act, 2022 that a political party shall not be allowed to change or substitute its candidate whose name has been submitted under Section 29 of the Act except in the case of death or withdrawal.
The Judge therefore declared as unlawful, illegal, unconstitutional and of no effect whatsoever the purported substitution of the plaintiff whose name has been submitted, uploaded and published as the valid candidate of Labour Party for Enugu West Senatorial District.
Justice Ekwo ordered Ekwe to immediately stop parading himself as a candidate of Labour Party in the forthcoming election and the party from dealing with him in the capacity.