Court Halts INEC’s Prosecution Of Suspended Adamawa REC Hudu Yunusa-Ari

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Hudu: Justice Donatus U. Okorowo of the Federal High Court in Abuja have issued an interim order, instructing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and two other parties to maintain the “status quo” regarding the planned trial of the suspended Adamawa Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Hudu Yunusa-Ari, at the Adamawa High Court. reports that the court’s decision came in response to a motion exparte filed by Senator Aisha Binani Dahiru, the former All Progressive Congress (APC) governorship candidate in Adamawa, through her lawyer, M.K. Aondoakaa (SAN).

As previously reported by this newspaper, Binani had filed a lawsuit against INEC, the Inspector General of Police, and the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation. She sought the court’s interpretation on whether INEC has the authority to charge or arraign Hudu Yunusa-Ari, the REC deployed for the Adamawa state election, while a tribunal is still examining the outcome of the gubernatorial election.

In her motion, labeled FHC/ABJ/CS/935/2023, Binani’s lawyer, M.K. Aondoakaa (SAN), filed a writ of summons seeking an interpretation of Sections 144 and 149 of the Electoral Act 2022.

Sections 144 and 149 of the Electoral Act 2022 state, “The Commission shall consider any recommendation made to it by a tribunal with respect to the prosecution by it of any person for an offence disclosed in any election petition. Notwithstanding any other provisions of this Act, any defect or error arising from any actions taken by an official of the Commission in relation to any notice, form or document made or given or other things done by the official in pursuance of the provisions of the Constitution or of this Act, or any rules made thereunder remain valid unless otherwise challenged and declared invalid by a competent court of law or tribunal.”

Aondoakaa argued that his client is a petitioner at the tribunal and has asserted that she was declared the winner of the state governorship election, but INEC’s national leadership subsequently nullified the result.

He further stated that INEC is actively involved in the ongoing tribunal proceedings and has argued that Hudu’s declaration was unlawful.

Aondoakaa emphasised that Hudu is a crucial witness for Binani at the tribunal, and his prosecution by INEC would jeopardize the presentation of his evidence and testimony.

By way of the exparte motion, he requested that the court prohibit the prosecution of the REC until the tribunal concludes its investigation within the constitutional timeframe of 180 days.

It should be recalled that a statement issued by INEC’s spokesman, Festus Okoye, mentioned, “As provided by Section 145(1) of the Electoral Act 2022, an offence committed under the Act shall be triable in a Magistrate Court or a High Court of a State in which the offence is committed, or the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Furthermore, Section 145(2) of the Act provides that a prosecution under the Act shall be undertaken by legal officers of the Commission or any legal practitioner appointed by it.

Having reviewed the case file from the Police which established a prima facie case against Barr. Hudu Yunusa Ari, the Commission has filed a six-count charge against him at the Adamawa State High Court sitting in Yola.”

In his ruling on Monday, Justice Okorowo stated that in accordance with Sections 144 and 149 of the Electoral Act, Binani has the legal right to challenge INEC’s decision since the tribunal has not made any recommendations regarding the state election.

However, the court directed the respondents to appear in court on July 18, 2023, to provide reasons why the exparte order should not be granted.

The judge ordered all parties to maintain the “status quo ante bellum” (the state existing before the war), meaning that any further actions related to the election should be halted until the motion exparte is resolved.

It is worth noting that in another Federal High Court hearing in Abuja before Justice Inyang Ekwo, on April 26, the court dismissed an application filed by Binani Dahiru. The application claimed that INEC could not nullify the results announced by the State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Hudu Yunusa. Binani withdrew the matter, citing internal party issues.

On April 16, Binani accepted the results declared in her favour by Hudu, even though the REC announced her as the winner without reading out the actual scores for each candidate, as stipulated in the Electoral Act 2022.

Yunusa had entered the collation center after the supplementary election was suspended on Saturday and proclaimed Binani the winner, which drew widespread criticism.

However, the electoral body declared the announcement null, void and without legal effect.

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