Alex Enumah in Abuja and Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti
The Supreme Court Wednesday dismissed a suit filed by former Ekiti State governor, Chief Segun Oni, challenging the eligibility of Governor Kayode Fayemi to stand as a candidate in the July 14, 2018 governorship poll.
The apex court in a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Amirul Sanusi dismissed the suit on the grounds that it has become statute barred and a mere academic exercise.
In the verdict, the court held that Oni’s suit was caught up with Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution, which makes it mandatory that all pre-election cases must be filed within 14 days of the cause of action.
Justice Sanusi said from the available record at the disposal of the court the case of the appellant (Oni) was filed 42 days after the cause of action arose, thereby making the suit legally incompetent to be adjudicated upon.
Oni, who was a governorship aspirant in the last primary election conducted by the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the nomination of the flag bearer in Ekiti State, had dragged Fayemi to court praying for an order disqualifying him from participating in the last governorship election.
The grouse of Oni was that Fayemi did not resign as Minister of Solid Mineral three months before the election as required by law.
Oni also predicated his case on the report of a Commission of Enquiry set up by the Ekiti State Government under former Governor Ayodele Fayose, which prohibited Fayemi from holding public office for a period of 10 years.
However, a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) presided over by Justice Oathman Musa, had in a judgment quashed the report of the commission on the grounds that Fayemi was denied fair hearing during the proceeding.
But Justice Sanusi upheld the preliminary objection raised against the appeal of Oni that the suit has no life in it having been filed outside the 14 days required by law to be competent.
Reacting to the judgment, Fayemi’s counsel, Rafiu Balogun, commended the apex court for the ability to do justice to the issue within the time frame allowed by law.
The counsel expressed optimism that his client, Fayemi, will now have sufficient time to concentrate on governance and meet the expectations of the people of Ekiti State, adding that with the suit finally concluded there is no victor, no vanquished.
Fayemi: Verdict Confirms Me a Law Abiding Citizen
Reacting to the judgment, Fayemi said it confirmed that he resigned as a minister in line with the 1999 Constitution.
Reiterating that he was never a law breaker, Fayemi said the verdict will afford the state to move forward and end all contentions about his emergence.
The governor added that the primaries of the party, which produced him as the APC governorship candidate in Ekiti State in 2018 was not only free, fair and credible but backed by law.
Speaking in Ado Ekiti yesterday during the swearing in of the new Head of Service, Mr Ayodeji Ajayi, shortly after the Supreme Court judgement, he said: “Ekiti must move forward. Enough of these distractions. Enough of these recriminations over matters that ought not go to court.
“It is very clear that I resigned in accordance with the constitution of the land and that the shenanigans that culminated in the White Paper that said Fayemi should not serve in public office have been dealt with in the appropriate law courts as the thrash that it was at the time.
“It also shows clearly that the primaries that took place in Ekiti for anyone who is objective enough, was the cleanest, the fairest and most credible primaries that ever has taken place in the history of electioneering in Nigeria.”
Fayemi, who said Oni was right to have gone to court since he felt strongly about a position, added: “Now that the highest court in the land has pronounced definitely on it, I hope he would see it as a cue to play a more active role in the party
“Oni, to the best of my knowledge, remains a member of the APC. I don’t believe he has elected to remove himself from the party. But I think this would not lead to another round of recriminations and attacks.”
The governor charged the new HoS to be upright and provide right leadership for the civil service, saying: “We will not tolerate any breach of the accord we have signed with Ekiti people. Do your best, justify the confidence reposed in you”.
In his response, the new HoS, Ajayi, who promised to provide strong leadership for the civil service, said he would implement and develop the ideals of the service.
“This is an epoch occasion. Epoch-making in the sense that somebody who has been literally condemned is now a king,” he said in reference to how he was vilified by the immediate past administration.