Bearing in mind the similar scenarios in the Federal Constituency in 2011 and 2015, a group of legal practitioners within the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), has urged the screening committee of the party to disqualify Engr. Sunday Oche, over a pending case of forgery standing against him.
Engr. Oche, who seeks to represent Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency of Benue State under APC, was arrested last Sunday, 8th May, 2022, in Otukpo and detained at the Force Headquarters, on the order of the Chief Magistrate Court, Bwari, Abuja.
He has, however, been released on bail by the Nigeria Police.
One Mr. Michael Unogwu, the APC candidate for the Federal Constituency had dragged Engr. Oche before the court, for forging his signature and private letterhead papers with which he “criminally” wrote a purported letter of withdrawal to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) after the 2018 primaries, causing the electoral umpire to substitute his name with that of Oche.
Barrister Emmanuel Agada and Barrister Abraham Onoja, Convener and Secretary of Enone APC Young Lawyers Forum respectively, in a letter of concern on behalf of APC lawyers in the Federal Constituency, dated 14th May, 2022; expressed great worries that, if Oche is allowed to fly the flag of the party, what befell the Federal Constituency in previous times when a candidate was withdrawn after winning an election, over pending forgery case, would repeat itself.
“In the light of all these, we are constrained to urge our great party, to excuse Sunny Oche from the contest, as fielding a candidate with such weighty criminal case will impugn the good image of our party before the good people of Enone, as well as, portend grave danger to our longstanding quest to end the decades of PDP misrepresentation in Enone.
“The 2015 scenario where the Enone people voted Hon. Christopher Adaba Abah (a.k.a Mad Lion) as the member representing the Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency, only for him to be disqualified by the Court over certificate forgery, and an unwanted Hassan Saleh foisted on Enone people by the court, is still fresh in the minds of Enone people and the electorates will be jittery to vote a candidate who is enmeshed in another certificate forgery scandal, so as to avoid the painful agony of having their votes set aside by the courts.
“This uncertainty will affect the confidence of the electorate and negatively affect our electoral fortune as a party. This we cannot afford at this moment when the APC needs all the votes it can get to defeat the PDP, which has remained the dominant political party in the zone, for decades”, the letter reads in part.
The forum also expressed great concerns that the party would be taking a huge risk to field Engr. Oche, “whose attention would be seriously divided between answering to serious criminal allegations and embarking on a rigorous campaign to help the party emerge victorious in the election proper”.
The Lawyers stressed that, they did not wish to imagine what would become the fate of the party, if after an exhaustive electioneering and criminal prosecution, Oche is found guilty and subsequently sent to jail, adding that, “since this is a possibility and of high probability, our party must be cautious to avoid the quagmire that might arise from having its candidate, or a representative of Enone, under its platform sent to jail”.
“We, therefore, urge you to use your good offices to direct, order or oversee a swift disqualification of Engr. Sunny Oche from being fielded as the candidate of the party in the Ado/Ogbadibo/Okpokwu Federal Constituency seat”, the Forum added.
When contacted on phone, Mr. Lawyer Oduh, Director of Media and Publicity to Engr. Sunny Oche Campaign Organization, described the letter as an attempt to “stop a winning candidate”.
“This is obviously a game plan of some persons to stop Engr. Sunny Oche who is a winning candidate. But they arrived late as it would not work. We know their antics already. Let me also tell you that Engr. Sunny Oche has been screened successfully by the committee”, Oduh said.
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