Tuesday, July 16, 2024
Politics

LP faults Enugu assembly candidate’s seven-year jail term ahead of rerun

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The leadership of the Labour Party, on Tuesday, kicked against the seven-year jail term handed to its Enugu State House of Assembly candidate, Bright Ngene, over his involvement in a contentious community matter.

The party also wrote the Independent National Electoral Commission to suspend the planned rerun election in Ngene’s constituency to avoid giving the ruling Peoples Democratic Party an advantage as a result of the judgment.

An Enugu South Magistrates Court presided over by E D Onwu had sentenced the LP candidate for Enugu South Urban Constituency on Friday.

Ngene was arraigned alongside two others in 2017 by the Enugu State Police Command over a N15m development fund case involving his community.

In the 2023 general elections, he defeated the Peoples Democratic Party candidate.

The PDP, however, challenged Ngene’s victory.

The election petition tribunal declared the election inconclusive, and a rerun was ordered in eight polling units.

But the magistrate court ruled on Friday that Ngene should be incarcerated for seven years.

Addressing journalists in Abuja, the National Working Committee of LP, represented by the National Publicity Secretary Obiora Ifoh, said the ruling was part of a grand plot to prevent their candidate from participating in the rerun.

In attendance at the press conference were National Legal Adviser, Kehinde Edun and Deputy National Chairman of the Labour Party, Ayo Olorunfemi.

He said, “What we have seen in this matter is a manifestation of rot in the system which ordinarily should be protecting the ordinary man. The judiciary in Enugu has since unmasked itself and has assumed the position of an interested party.

“For our albatross, the only thing that can stop the Labour Party from coming out victorious is to conduct the election without our participation and the only way is to put away our candidate behind bars. It thus appears that this strategy has worked for the PDP. We are calling on Nigerians to rise against this assault on democracy being perpetuated in Enugu state.

“We strongly believe that our party and candidate did not get a fair hearing. As stated earlier, this matter has been pending for about seven years. But all of a sudden, the presiding magistrate reopened the matter and, within 24 hours, gave a ruling despite protestations by the defence counsel who fruitlessly dissuaded the magistrate to adjourn the matter to a later date for a fair hearing.”

He added, “In this case, there was no fine option. What is the motive behind the long sentencing? Why is there an urgency to imprison our candidate even when the NJC has accepted custody of the matter as requested by the candidate? Wouldn’t the parties have maintained the status quo pending the intervention of the NJC?

“Of course, being the minority, they wanted the majority presence in the state Assembly; by so doing, they would have secured the badly needed assurance of the safety of the executive. Labour Party has, of course, approached the courts to get those Assembly seats vacated in line with the constitution and electoral laws.

“We are at this point calling on the National Judicial Council to initiate a disciplinary action following Ngene’s petition for bringing the judiciary to opprobrium and disrepute. We also urge INEC to suspend any further action as regards the rerun of the Enugu South Rural Constituency election until further notice.

“This we believe, will not gift an undue advantage to a particular party over the rest pending the conclusion of the legal processes. INEC must ensure that the will of the people is respected.”

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