The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday said it had filed a six-count charge against the suspended Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of Adamawa State, Yunusa Hudu Ari, at the State High Court in Yola.
It is over his alleged role in the state’s March 18 governorship election.
National Commissioner in charge of Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye said in a statement that the court had fixed July 12 for commencement of Ari’s trial.
Ari, a lawyer, courted controversy during the re-run election of the governorship election in Adamawa when he unilaterally declared the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Aisha ‘Binani’ Dahiru as the winner of the poll while collation of results was ongoing.
INEC swiftly overturned his declaration, went ahead to conclude results collation, and announced the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Ahmadu Fintiri as the winner of the poll.
Following the nationwide uproar Ari’s move generated, former President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the Inspector-General of Police to investigate the incident.
On Tuesday, INEC Chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu said the Police had concluded its probe and sent its findings to the commission. Yakubu added that the commission would inform Nigerians of its next step.
Unveiling the police’s findings in a statement titled “Prosecution of Resident Electoral Commissioner, Barr. Hudu Yunusa Ari” Mr. Okoye said the police report established a prima facie case against the suspended REC.
The statement reads: “INEC held its regular weekly meeting Thursday 6th July 2023, and discussed, among other issues, the progress with the prosecution of electoral offenders.
“It would be recalled that at the meeting with the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) two days ago on Tuesday 4th July 2023, the Commission confirmed the receipt of case files from the Nigeria Police following the conclusion of an investigation into alleged electoral offences during the 2023 General Election, including the one involving the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) deployed to Adamawa State, Barr. Hudu Yunusa Ari.
“The Commission also assured Nigerians of immediate action on the matter.
“As provided by Section 145(1) of the Electoral Act 2022, an offence committed under the Act shall be triable in a Magistrate Court or a High Court of a State in which the offence is committed, or the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
“Furthermore, Section 145(2) of the Act provides that a prosecution under the Act shall be undertaken by legal officers of the Commission or any legal practitioner appointed by it.
“Having reviewed the case file from the Police which established a prima facie case against Barr. Hudu Yunusa Ari, the Commission has filed a six-count charge against him at the Adamawa State High Court sitting in Yola.
“Consequently, the court has fixed Wednesday 12th July 2023 for the commencement of trial.
“Meanwhile, the Commission is working with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) for the diligent prosecution of other cases”.
The Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), praised INEC for taking action against Ari, saying it was long overdue.
IPAC National Chairman, Yabagi Sani, who spoke on a Channels Television programme, Politics Today, said the court action against the embattled REC would raise Nigerian’s confidence in the electoral umpire.
He said: “What INEC has done is what we expected it to do. In any situation, where there is no discipline, people do whatever they like. If we must go forward, there must be discipline in all spheres of our national lives.”