A Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has again disqualified the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, Mr. Tonye Cole, over alleged dual citizenship and non-compliance with the Electoral Act by his party.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state had filed a suit asking the court to direct the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) not to recognise Cole as the governorship candidate of APC for alleged dual citizenship.
PDP, in the suit, also alleged that the APC delegates’ election that gave Cole the party ticket did not follow due process.
In a ruling delivered Thursday in the matter, Justice Emmanuel Obile agreed with the PDP that the APC gubernatorial candidate, who has dual citizenship, was not eligible to contest the governorship position.
Obile also ruled that the APC primary that brought in Cole was not monitored by INEC.
Contrary to his decision on preliminary objection in a suit by APC against PDP and its governorship candidate, Sim Fubara, that no court has right to interfere in any party’s affairs, Obile, in the judgement against APC, held that the court had jurisdiction to hear the matter.
The judge further directed INEC to delist the name of Cole from the electoral list for the 2023 general election.
One of the counsels to PDP, Dike Udenna, who spoke to journalists outside the courtroom, lauded the court over the judgement. Udenna stated that APC had no governorship candidate for the 2023 general election in the state unless a higher court said otherwise.
But APC counsel Collins Dike expressed displeasure that the same court, which disagreed with APC and held that no court had right to interfere in another party’s affairs on a section of the constitution being used, turned around to say otherwise.
Dike revealed that APC would challenge the judgement at the Court of Appeal with assurance that a higher court would do justice in the matter.
He stated, “First, to say that the judgement has been given. In law, we abide by it. However, we are disappointed and we are sure we are going to test it at the Court of Appeal.
“For us, the position of the law is very clear, the constitution is very clear. We are confident that the appealing court will do justice in this matter. It will give a proper interpretation of the constitution.
“Some of you were in the court and, probably, heard the court read the relevant provisions of the constitution. Our constitution is very clear that where a person is a citizen of Nigeria by birth and goes on to acquire the citizenship of any other country or pledges allegiance to any other country, he is qualified to contest elections.
“Tonye Cole acquired a citizenship of the United Kingdom, he stated so in his forms before INEC but it is also clear that he is a citizen of Nigeria by birth. So, the court read that very clearly from the constitution and proceeded to disqualify him, contrary to the provisions of the constitution.
“We are proceeding on appeal immediately, we are only waiting to get the judgement as soon as possible so that we study it.”
Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt