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Two Katsina senators, eight Reps may lose seats

National Assembly building, Abuja
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday said the Independent National Electoral Commission lacked the power to withdraw the certificate of return issued to any candidate declared the winner of an election by its returning officer.

Justice Gladys Olotu gave the judgment in a suit filed by some candidates of the Congress for Progressive Change in Katsina State in the April 2011 elections, who are challenging the withdrawal of their certificates of return by INEC.

Justice Olotu held that by Section 68(1) and 75(1) of the Electoral Act 2010, the electoral body cannot revise its action when a certificate of return is issued to a winner of an election, without an order of a tribunal or a competent court of jurisdiction.

The judge held that INEC acted ultra vires by withdrawing the certificates of return issued to two CPC senators and eight members of the House of Representatives.

It also faulted the subsequent issuance of fresh certificates of return to the fifth to 14th defendants in the suit.

INEC, the Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Clerk of the National Assembly, CPC and the concerned 10 members of the National Assembly, who benefited from the withdrawal of the initial certificates of return issued to the plaintiffs, were listed as defendants.

The plaintiffs had asked the court to nullify the certificates of return INEC issued to Senator Abubakar Sadiq Yar’adua, Senator Abubakar Sirika and eight other members of the House of Representatives, and also order the lawmakers to vacate their seats in the National Assembly.

Although the court agreed with the plaintiffs that INEC’s action was illegal, it did not give any consequential order concerning the fate of the plaintiffs and the defendants, who replaced them in the National Assembly as a result of INEC’s action.

Justice Olotu said, “The plaintiffs are the candidates that contested and won the April 9, 2011 general elections into the National Assembly to represent their various federal constituencies and senatorial districts of Katsina State and certificates of return were issued to them within seven days of the declaration of the election results as provided by the Electoral Act and not the fifth to 14th defendants.”

The plaintiffs had in their suit asked the court for a declaration that the sealed certificates of return issued to them upon their winning election into the National Assembly are still valid and that they are entitled to immediately repossess their seats in the National Assembly to represent their respective constituencies and senatorial districts without hindrance from the defendants or any other person.

In an affidavit in support of the originating summons, they averred that INEC purportedly withdrew their certificates of returns and a fresh ones were issued to the defendants without any order of any court of competent jurisdiction.

They further averred that, pursuant upon fresh certificates of return, the defendants were sworn in to take their various seats in the National Assembly without any court order to that effect.

Source - Punch news

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