A Federal High Court in Abuja declined on Wednesday, the request by the African Action Congress (AAC) for an order of interim injunction restraining the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from among others, announcing winners of the last governorship and State Assembly elections in Rivers State.
Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo ordered plaintiffs’ lawyer, Tawo Tawo (SAN) to put the defendants on notice, shortly after the lawyer spoke about the ex-parte motion filed by his client.
The motion ex-parte was filed along with an originating summons marked: FHC/ ABJ/CS/303/2019, with AAC, Engr Biokpomabo Festus Awara and Pastor (Dr.) Ben-Gurion John Peter as plaintiffs.
INEC and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) were listed as respondents in the motion which was filed on March 18 this year.
At the mention of the case on Wednesday, Justice Ekwo drew the attention of plaintiffs’ lawyer to some media reports, to the effect that a Federal High Court in Abuja has restrained INEC in relation to the Rivers election.
In response, Tawo denied knowledge of the publication, including a Justice Ewa mention in the reports. He urged the court to ignore it.
Shortly after, Tawo informed the court about the pending ex-parte motion filed by has clients, which the judge declined.
Justice Ekwo, after listening to the plaintiffs’ lawyer, declined to grant the prayers contained in the motion ex-parte.
Instead, the judge ordered that the respondents be served with the motion and other process in the suit. He adjourned to March 25 for hearing.
The plaintiffs had, in the motion ex-parte, prayed the court for “an order directing a departure from the Rules of this honourable court for the abridgment oi time for the respondents to enter appearance and file their defence within seven days from the date of service of the originating processes on them”.
They and also prayed for “an order of interim injunction of this honourable court restraining the 1st respondent (INEC) from further action in any manner whatsoever including the counting/coalition of votes, declaration and return of any candidate in the gubernatorial and Houses of Assembly election of 9th March, 2019 in Rivers State pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
The plaintiffs identified the grounds for their motion to include that “INEC had earlier admitted that the election in Rivers State was marred with substantial violence that compromised the credibility of the entire process thereby suspending the election.
“Without calling for a fresh election, the 1st respondent has announced, via a press release, that it is now set to continue with the election from this Wednesday, 20th March 20 19.
“Time is of the essence, therefore the need for abridgment of time within which the parties are to file their processes.”
The plaintiffs are in the substantive suit, querying the propriety of INEC’s handling of the last governorship and State Assembly election in Rivers State, particularly as it relates to its announcement of the results.