Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has concluded plans to file an application for substituted service after the senator representing Kogi West senatorial district, Dino Melaye, refused to collect the petition filed against him by people in his senatorial district who wanted him recalled.
Sources at the Federal High Court said the baliff who went with INEC staff to serve Melaye through his lawyer, Mike Ozekhome & Co, were told that the chamber was no longer representing the senator.
â€œThey told us to go and serve the letter and the documents on the senator personally,â€ the source said.
Following the refusal of the chambers to accept the documents, the commission proceeded to the National Assembly to effect service on Melaye but found his office locked.
The team also went to his house with a bailiff to serve him but the gate man said he had instructions not to receive anything from anyone.
Frustrated, the commission instructed the legal team to file an application for substituted service today (Friday) at the Federal High Court.
After dismissing Melayeâ€™s application to stop INEC from proceeding with the petition for his recall, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba ordered INEC to serve him again with the petition and the schedule of signatures and the list of petitioners.
He held that the suit was hasty and premature since Melaye failed to exhaust all internal mechanism provided by the 1999 Constitution before rushing to court.
The commission, in compliance with the court order took the documents packed in three bags, popularly called â€˜Ghana must goâ€™ bags to Melayeâ€™s lawyer chambers, his office and his home but was still unable to serve him.
When asked to confirm if the senator was evading service, a staff of the commission, not authorised to speak on the issue said: â€œYes. We are surprised that the chambers of Ozhekome which claimed to have filed an appeal against the judgment of the high court would claim it has ceased to represent the senator. We have no choice other than to apply to court for substituted service. We are doing that tomorrow.â€
Melaye filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal, Abuja, to stop INEC from going further with the process of his recall from the National Assembly.
The Federal High Court had on September 11, 2017, in a judgment delivered by Justice Dimgba gave INEC the permission to go ahead with the recall.
Justice Dimgba gave the go-ahead after dismissing Melayeâ€™s suit that sought to to stop his recall by INEC following a petition it said it received from the people of Kogi West senatorial district, whom Melaye represents at the upper chamber of the National Assembly.
However, in a notice of appeal dated September 13, 2017 and filed same day by his counsel, Ozekhome, the appellant asked the appellate court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the first defendant/respondent or any of its agents from commencing or further continuing with the process or acting on the purported petition presented to it by the purported constituents of the plaintiff.
Melaye, who has expressed dissatisfaction with the judgment of Justice Dimgba, is asking the Court of Appeal to set aside the decision of the lower court on grounds that the court erred in law in taking the decision to allow INEC proceed with the recall process.