The Supreme Court has affirmed the nomination of Senator Rufa’i Hanga as the candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) in the February 25 National Assembly election.
A five-member panel of the apex court, led by Justice Inyang Okoro, in a unanimous judgment on Friday, faulted the refusal by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to replace Senator Ibrahim Shekarau with Hanga after Shekarau left the party for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before the election.
In the lead judgment, written by Justice Uwani Abba-Aji, but delivered on Friday by Justice Emmanuel Agim, the court resolved both issues identified for determination against the appellant (INEC).
The court held that the appeal by INEC was without merit and proceeded to dismiss it.
It affirmed the two earlier concurrent judgments delivered on November 11, 2022 and January 3, 2023 by the Federal High Court and Court of Appeal, both in Abuja, in which it was held that Hanga was the candidate of NNPP for the Kano Central Senatorial District.
The NNPP had, upon the resignation of some candidates from the party last year, nominated other candidates to replace those who resigned from the party,, including Shekarau.
The NNPP subsequently wrote INEC to accept its new candidates, a request the electoral body declined, promoting the party to sue at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
In the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS 632/2022 filed on September 12, 2022, the NNPP prayed the court to among others, determine “whether upon the proper interpretation of Sections 29(1), 31 and 33 of the Electoral Act 2022, the defendant (INEC) has the constitutional and the statutory powers to prevent the plaintiff (NNPP) from conducting fresh primaries and replacing their candidates, who have voluntarily withdrawn from the race to contest the 2023 general election?”
It prayed the court to among others, order INEC to accept its new candidates in place of those that withdrew.
Dissatisfied, INEC challenged the decision at the Court of Appeal, Abuja via its appeal marked: CA/ABJ/CV/1295/2022.
In its judgment on January 3, a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment of the Federal High Court and dismissed INEC’s appeal.
In the lead judgment, Justice Bature Isah Gafai declared that “on the whole therefore, both issues, having been resolved against the appellant (INEC), this appeal ends as one without merit; liable to be and is hereby dismissed.
“The judgment of the lower Court is this affirmed.”