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Double Registration: Court Finds Bello Culpable, Says Natasha Lack Right To Sue, Akpoti Kicks

The candidate of the Social Democratic Party [SDP] in the Kogi State governorship election held on November 16, 2019, Ms. Natasha Akpoti has kicked against court judgement that stopped her from taking legal action against the incumbent governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello.

The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja had, on Monday, dismissed the suit filed by Ms. Akpoti for lacking in locus standi.

Justice Inyang Ekwo, who delivered the judgement, held that the alleged offence was criminal and not a civil case, which could be instituted by an individual.

The judge, therefore, declared that the plaintiff had no legal right to institute the case.

Reacting, Natasha Akpoti scorned at the judgement wondering the rationale behind the pronouncement.

Taking to her Twitter handle @NatashaAkpoti, she wrote:

Kogi State SDP Gubernatorial Candidate, Barrister Natasha Akpoti

“Fed High Court Judge confirmed Yahaya Bello committed an offense against the Electoral Act but that I, Natasha Akpoti lack the right to bring action in court.”

See tweet below:

It could be recalled that Justice Ekwo had, on Dec. 6, 2019, fixed Jan. 20 to deliver a judgment in the suit, seeking Gov. Bello’s disqualification over alleged double registration as a voter.

The SDP’s candidate had, in a suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/1221/2019 dated Oct. 10 and filed by Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, on her behalf, sought the court’s determination on the eligibility of Bello, at the just-concluded election, having been allegedly involved in double registration as a voter.

But Bello had told the court that he was ready to defend himself on the allegation of double registration, framed against him by Akpoti.

While Akpoti was the plaintiff, the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Bello; were 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants respectively.

Delivering his judgment, Justice Ekwo noted Akpoti’s prayers before the court.

He said that one of the issues raised by APC, was for the court to determine whether the plaintiff, who was not an aspirant in its primary election, had a locus standi to file the suit.

According to him, it is the statement of claim that will determine whether the plaintiff has locus standi or not; in this case, it is the originating summon that will determine this.

He said that the plaintiff relied on sections of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), as the basis of her locus standi to challenge Bello as APC’s candidate for the poll, following his involvement in electoral fraud.

“In her argument, the plaintiff said that such a person is not a fit and proper person to be voted for, in any election, let alone for the highest office of a governor of a state,” the judge said.

Justice Ekwo, however, held that the section cited does not deal with fraud matters.

“The question now is whether the plaintiff locus standi to find a civil cause of action on Section 24(1)(e) of Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended). The answer is simply, no!

“It can be seen from the originating process that this suit is a civil action. It is not about the prosecution of the 3rd defendant for the allegation stated in Section 24(1)(e) of Electoral Act, 2010 or proving the case against him beyond reasonable doubt, as prescribed by the law.

“It is clear from the originating processes that the plaintiff is not a prosecuting authority and the plaintiff not being a prosecuting authority had not exhibit or any fiat by any prosecution agency to engage in this act,” he held.

According to him, going by the wordings of provisions of Sections 24 and 24(1)(e) of the Electoral Act, 2010, it is my opinion that no litigant can create a civil action out of the provisions.

He said the effect of lack of locus standi of the plaintiff portrayed that; “the court cannot exercise jurisdiction on this matter.”

Justice Ekwo, therefore, struck out the matter for lack of locus standi.

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