‘Election fraud’: Court hears Ugwu vs NUJ, Ogbeche’s case

An FCT High Court, Maitama will on Tuesday hear a motion on alleged election fraud brought against the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Emmanuel Ogbeche of its FCT council.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Complainant/Claimant, Donald Ugwu, is challenging Ogbeche’s eligibility and clearance to contest the Abuja council poll.

The court, presided over by Justice Chizoa Orji, had on Feb. 1, ordered the defendants to appear on Tuesday, March 15, in an originating summons filed by Mr Michael Okorie, Counsel for Ugwu.

Okorie in the motion challenged the eligibility and clearance of the second defendant (Ogbeche) by the Credentials’ Committee set up by the first defendant (Trustees of NUJ).

He alleged that the exercise was carried out in violation of the extant NUJ Constitution.

Ugwu, an Assistant Editor-in-Chief in NAN, is urging the court to nullify Ogbeche’s clearance and declare him the sole candidate for the Dec. 4, 2021 council election.

He also prayed the court to grant an order nullifying Ogbeche’s purported screening and clearance by the credentials’ committee inaugurated by NUJ, contrary to the provisions of Articles 1, 5, and 6 of the NUJ Constitution.

He further prayed for an order disqualifying Ogbeche from contesting any elective position in the said election.

He asked for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants, agents, privies or others from recognising Ogbeche as a candidate in the election.

Other reliefs sought included a declaration: “That the check-off dues of the second defendant, having not been deducted at source, paid or remitted by his employer from his monthly salary as provided in Articles 4 (1a) and 2 (a) of the NUJ Constitution, the second defendant was not in good financial standing of the union.

“That the second defendant, not being in good financial standing in check off dues, was not qualified as a candidate for the office of chairman of NUJ, FCT Council.

“That the screening and clearance of the second defendant by the credentials’ committee inaugurated by the first defendant contrary to Articles 1 (a), 5 (9) (a-f) and 6 (7) a, b and e of the NUJ constitution was unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void.”

The plaintiff averred that he had followed due process as required by the NUJ Constitution and the timetable by raising objections to Ogbeche’s candidacy, which were disregarded and unattended to by the credentials’ committee.

Ugwu averred that the members of the credentials’ committee were sympathetic to Ogbeche and continuously protected his interest against that of the members of the union.

He further averred that the NUJ Constitution did not provide waiver of the criteria for the qualification of any candidate seeking elective office.

“I know that as a fact that recognising the candidacy of the second defendant without meeting up the mandatory requirement of the union will work hardship on the sanctity and supremacy of the constitution of the union.

“We posit that to do otherwise by the honourable court is to give effect and endorsement to the rule of impunity other than rule of law,” Ugwu argued.

He, therefore, urged the court “to up the integrity of the union by giving a literal and natural interpretation of the goodwill of the members of the union in the overall interest of justice”. (NAN)