Imo Election: Labour Party crisis worsens as Apapa-led faction asks court to disqualify Athan Achonu

Lamidi Apapa Athan Achonu and Joseph Ukaegbu

The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has declined to grant a motion ex parte brought by the Lamidi Apapa-led faction of the Labour Party to disqualify Athan Achonu as the party’s governorship candidate in Imo just two days before the poll.

Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a short ruling, refused to grant the plaintiffs’ prayer for an order of interim injunction recognising their candidate, Joseph Ukaegbu, as validly elected standard-bearer of the party.

The development followed an ex parte motion moved by counsel to the plaintiff, Mohammed Mohammed, to the effect.

Instead, the judge directed Mr Mohammed to put the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the sole defendant, on notice.

“I am going to allow you to adopt it (the motion), but I will not grant it. I am not granting you the application today as you have to bring them to court,” stated the judge. “Let it be that they have been served and they are not in court.”

Mr Ekwo added, “I have studied the prayers on the motion ex-parte and also studied the averments in support. I am of the opinion that I need to hear from the defendant (INEC) before making further orders on the motion.” 

The case was adjourned until Friday for INEC to show cause.

The plaintiffs include the Labour Party, Mr Apapa (acting national chair, Lawal Saleh (acting national secretary) and Abayomi Arabambi (national publicity secretary).

Others are Anslem Eragbe (national youth leader), Akingbade Oyelekan (national legal adviser) and Mr Ukaegbu (gubernatorial candidate in Imo) as first to seventh plaintiffs, respectively.

In the motion marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1357/2023, the plaintiffs sued INEC as the sole defendant.

They had sought an order of interim injunction restraining INEC from “recognising any other person or persons laying claim to the Labour Party gubernatorial ticket for November 11 governorship poll other than the plaintiff (Mr Ukaegbu) who emerged from the primary conducted by the Apapa-led National Working Committee (NWC) on April 16.

They also sought an order of mandatory injunction directing or compelling INEC to recognise, upload and publish Mr Ukaegbu’s name as Labour Party governorship candidate in Imo, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed contemporaneously with this ex-parte application.

They equally sought an order of mandatory injunction directing INEC to upload Messrs Apapa and Saleh’s names as the acting national chairman and acting national secretary, including other Mr Apapa-led NWC members, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed contemporaneously with this ex-parte application.