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Court declines to order elections into Benue’s Ukum II (Afia) Constituency

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The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has dismissed a suit seeking to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct elections into the Ukum II (Afia) State Constituency seat of Benue State.

Justice Taiwo Taiwo also declined to order INEC and the President of the Senate to recognise the Ukum II (Afia) State Constituency seat.

The judge held further that the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/186/2021 was statute-barred and an abuse of court process.

The judge gave the decision on March 23 in suit FHC/ABJ/CS/186/2021 filed by Ukum Local Government Area (LGA), Executive Chairman Ukum (LGA) and Hon Thomas Mlang.

The defendants are INEC and the Senate President and two others.

The judge in his March 23 judgment considered whether this suit was caught by Section 2[a] of the Public Officers Protection Act (POPA).

He noted that the general consensus, according to the Supreme Court in the case of INEC V OGBADIBO LOCAL GOVT.& Ors, is that all limitation laws have the effect of closing the doors of the court against the plaintiff.

Justice Taiwo held: “This case is on all fours with the scenario in INEC V OGBADIBO [SUPRA]. The case of the plaintiff accrued in 1999. This is the year 2022. It ought to have been filed within three months in 1999. Therefore applying the case of INEC V OGBDIBO & ORS, this case is statute-barred.

“POPA has the effect of depriving this court of jurisdiction to entertain this matter having been instituted outside the limitation period in the Act.

“The right of the plaintiff to enforce this action has therefore become extinguished. I so hold.

“Is this case not an abuse of process in view of the decision of my learned brother Aneke J when he sat in the Makurdi division of this court?… This was in 2016 and this action was filed on the 18th of February, 2021.

“Is this not an abuse of process from the circumstances of this present case? I am of the firm view that it is and that the court is functus officio.

“I think I should stop here and do what is expected of the court where it sustains an objection to a suit pursuant to the limitation law. I, therefore, dismiss this suit. This is the judgement of the court.”

The plaintiffs, through their counsel T.D Pepe, SAN, had sought six reliefs, including a declaration that “the continuous composition of the Benue State House of Assembly, consisting of 30 members, being less than three or four times the number of seats which Benue State has in the House of Representatives divided in a way to reflect equal population and or not consisting of the number of seats is contrary and does not conform to sections 91 and 112 of the Constitution.”

They also sought a declaration, among others, that this “continued suppression of Ukum II (Afia) State Constituency” left the Benue State Assembly seats less than at least 33, in violation of the Constitution.

Upon service of the plaintiff’s processes, the 1st defendant through its counsel Abdulazeez Sani SAN filed a Notice of Preliminary Objection dated 15th March 2021 but filed on March 16, 2021, seeking an order dismissing this suit.

The 2nd to 4th defendants did not file any process in this suit nor were they represented.

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