The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has finally recognised Akanimo Udofia as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom State.
Mr Udofia is accorded the recognition for the first time after emerging from a controversial primary held 10 months ago which was not monitored by INEC as mandated by the law.
INEC cited court order as the reason it is recognising Mr Udofia’s candidacy, which is contained in the amendment number six posted on its website on Friday.
The recognition followed the judgment of a Federal High Court in Abuja which on Thursday ordered INEC to list Mr Udofia’s name as the candidate of the APC for the 2023 governorship election in Akwa Ibom.
Mr Udofia instituted the suit against INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu.
“That an order of mandamus is hereby made compelling the respondent to list the applicant as the governorship candidate of the APC in Akwa Ibom State in view of the extant judgments and judgment orders of the Court of Appeal,” Justice J.K. Omotosho said in his judgment.
The Supreme Court had on Tuesday struck out the same application (a cross appeal) filed by Mr Udofia, describing it as an academic exercise, having dismissed the main appeal filed by a former presidential aide, Ita Enang.
Mr Enang, a former senator from Akwa Ibom, was one of the APC governorship aspirants in the 26 May, 2022 primary election of the party in Akwa Ibom.
He was at the Supreme Court to challenge the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Abuja, which held that Mr Udofia was a valid member of the APC and, therefore, eligible to have contested the APC primary in Akwa Ibom.
Ita Enang reacts
The former senator in his reaction to the Federal High Court decision, wrote a letter on 10 March to INEC, telling the commission that there was no court order directing it to list “guber candidate for Akwa Ibom State.”
Mr Enang, in the letter addressed to the INEC chairman, said “the judgment order was obtained in suppression of correct facts while concealing the fact that an appeal was pending on the Supreme Court on the same subject matter and the Court of Appeal in its original judgment of 19 January did not make any positive or consequential order whatsoever directing INEC to enlist Mr Udofia or Mr Enang (himself) as the Akwa Ibom APC governorship candidate for the 2023 election.”
The APC has no governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom State based on all available court judgments, Mr Enang said in the letter.
He urged INEC “to be properly guided as there was no consequential order from either the Appeal Court or the Supreme Court on the matter to enable it to act by accepting and publishing the name of any person as the candidate”.
The APC held its governorship primary around midnight on 26 May 2022 which was not monitored by INEC as mandated by the law.
Mr Udofia had emerged as the winner of the primary.
The INEC office in Akwa Ibom, in a report it sent to its headquarters in Abuja, stated clearly that the APC did not hold its governorship primary in the state.
READ ALSO: Supreme Court affirms Akan Udofia as Akwa Ibom APC governorship candidate
INEC, relying on the report, had since refused to recognise Mr Udofia as a governorship candidate of APC in the state until 10 March.
Meanwhile, Mr Enang had shortly after the primary last year instituted a suit at a Federal High Court in Uyo asking it to declare him as the governorship candidate of APC in the state arguing that Mr Udofia was not a member of the APC as at the time the primary was conducted.
Mr Enang’s claim was that Mr Udofia, having been on the ballot for the Peoples Democratic Party governorship primary in Akwa Ibom within the same period the APC conducted its own primary in the state, could not have been a member of the APC and, therefore, ineligible to contest for the APC primary.
The Judge, Agatha Okeke, on 14 November 2022 nullified the primary that produced Mr Udofia, ordered a fresh primary within two weeks but barred Mr Udofia from participating in a fresh primary.
But the Appeal Court on 19 January set aside the judgment but did not order INEC to publish Mr Udofia’s name as the APC governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom.
It is unclear for now if the legal battle is over for the APC in Akwa Ibom State. Some sources told PREMIUM TIMES on Friday that Mr Enang, a lawyer, is likely going to file a fresh court case against Mr Udofia.
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2023: APC now has governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom, 10 months after its primary
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