Court halts trial of suspended Adamawa REC, Yunusa-Ari, according to INEC

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The Federal High Court in Abuja has issued a restraining order to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), preventing them from proceeding with the prosecution of the suspended Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Adamawa State, Hudu Yunusa-Ari.

Yunusa-Ari is facing a six-count charge related to his alleged unlawful actions during the Adamawa State governorship election held on March 18.

Initially, INEC had declared the gubernatorial election inconclusive and called for a supplementary poll. However, during the collation of results of the supplementary poll on April 15, the suspended Adamawa REC, Yunusa-Ari, bypassed protocols and announced the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Aishatu Ahmed Binani, as the winner.

This action prompted immediate reactions, leading to INEC nullifying Yunusa-Ari’s announcement and placing him on an indefinite suspension.

Following INEC’s decision to prosecute the Adamawa REC, Senator Binani, through her legal team led by former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Michael Aondoaka, SAN, approached the court to challenge the legality of the planned trial.

In the ex-parte motion filed before the court, INEC, the Inspector-General of Police, and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) were cited as the 1st to 3rd respondents.

Mr. Aondoaka argued that the prosecution of Mr. Yunusa-Ari would not be legally valid until the petition lodged by his client at the tribunal to challenge the outcome of the Adamawa governorship election is decided in accordance with Section 149 of the Electoral Act, 2022.

Binani’s lawyer further contended that INEC’s decision to initiate legal action against anyone involved in the initial declaration of his client as the winner of the governorship contest, while the tribunal was still deliberating the petition, was unconstitutional.

He pointed out that Section 285(6) of the Electoral Law stipulates a 180-day period for the determination of electoral disputes, which had not yet expired in the petition filed by the APC candidate before the tribunal on May 6.

Additionally, the former AGF informed the court that although his client had previously filed a suit seeking a judicial review of INEC’s actions in the Adamawa governorship poll, Justice Inyang Ekwo, who presided over the case, directed her to approach the tribunal since it was not a pre-election matter.

The court, after hearing the arguments, ordered all parties involved to maintain the status quo ante bellum until the case is heard and determined. The case was adjourned until July 18 for a hearing, and the Respondents were instructed to present reasons why all the reliefs sought by Senator Binani should not be granted.

The court also approved an accelerated hearing of the case.

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