Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Olukayode Adeniyi of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Apo on Monday dismissed a suit seeking the disqualification of Governor Mohammed Bindow from contesting in the March 9 governorship election in Adamawa State.
Justice Adeniyi, in a judgment delivered Monday in the suit filed by the Incorporated Trustees of Kingdom Human Rights Foundation International, dismissed the suit on the grounds that the court lacked the territorial jurisdiction to entertain the matter in the first instance.
The foundation had last year dragged Governor Bindow to court on allegations that he (Bindow) supplied false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in his INEC Form CF001 by purporting to have sat for the West African Examination Council (WAEC) in June 1983 and possess a General Certificate of Education (GCE) issued by the examination body.
In the suit, marked FCT/CV/518/2018, the foundation prayed the court to disqualify Bindow for falsely declaring his educational qualification and date of birth for the purpose of nomination/election into the office of Governor of Adamawa State for the 2019 general election.
Delivering judgment in the suit, the judge partially upheld the preliminary objection raised against the suit by the governor and declined jurisdiction.
Justice Adeniyi held that the High Court of the FCT lacked the territorial jurisdiction to inquire into whether or not the information submitted by somebody who seeks to contest election in Adamawa State were false or not.
Justice Adeniyi said since the information Bindow supplied to INEC were published in Adamawa State, as required under Section 31(3), the cause of action could be said to have accrued in Adamawa.
He said it was an abuse of court process and an act of forum shopping for the plaintiff to have travelled all the way to the FCT to challenge an alleged infraction that took place in Adamawa State, where available courts could have safely dealt with the issues raised.
The judge agreed with the plaintiff that it possessed the necessary legal right to institute the suit, although it is a corporate personality.
He added: “It is therefore my position that the capacity of the claimant to pursue this case is provided in Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act, which says ‘any person,’ but did not define the word ‘any person’.
Relying on Section18(1) of the Interpretation Act, the judge said: “This court is not in doubt that the claimant (plaintiff) qualifies as a corporate personality,” and proceeded to “hold that the claimant is vested with the legal capacity to institute this suit.”
He however noted that there was a lacuna in the provision of Section 285(14) of the 4th Alteration to the Constitution, which limits the class of people, who can file pre-election cases to an aspirant and a political party.
The judge noted that since Section 31(5) allows any person to sue where it is discovered that a candidate provided false information to INEC, Section 285(14) of the Constitution should be made to include other classes of people or institutions.
Justice Adeniyi, while stating that the plaintiff made a reasonable cause of action to entitle it to be heard by the court, however, held that the suit was statute barred because it was filed outside the 14 days provided under Section 285(9) of the Constitution.
The judge noted that while INEC acknowledged the receipt of Bindow’s Form CF001 on October 25, 2018, the plaintiff filed the suit on December 12, 2018, about 47 days after the cause of action.
Justice Adeniyi, having partially upheld the notice of objection and held that his court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the suit, accordingly dismissed it.