By Alex Enumah
Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court, Abuja on Wednesday dismissed a suit challenging the validity of the primary election that produced Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the October 10, 2020 gubernatorial election in Ondo State.
Justice Ekwo, in the judgment, dismissed the suit for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
The judge held that the suit filed by one Mrs. Olajumoke Anifowose was statued barred having been filled outside 14 days allowed by law for a pre-election matter.
Mrs Anifowose, in the suit filled on her behalf by her counsel, Mr Adesina Oke, had challenged the indirect primary election through which Akeredolu emerged as the governorship candidate of the APC.
She contended that Section 87 of the Electoral Act and Article 20 of the APC constitution and other relevant election guidelines were violated in the primary election by the state executive committee and local government committees of APC that conducted the primary election.
The plaintiff therefore applied for an order of the court declaring the primary election as invalid and to bar the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from recognising Akeredolu as a governorship candidate.
She also prayed the court to prohibit APC from submitting Akeredolu’s name as its governorship candidate and Akeredolu from parading himself as a gubernatorial candidate.
Delivering judgment in the suit, Justice Ekwo however upheld the preliminary objection against the suit by Akeredolu and APC, claiming that the court action is grossly incompetent since it was not filed withing 14 days required by law and by that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
Although Justice Ekwo noted that Akeredolu was nominated by APC on July 20th, and the plaintiff instituted the suit on July 29, which fell within the 14 days stipulated by law, the suit however became incompetent due to the withdrawal of the initial originating summons and its substitution on August 20 by the plaintiff.
The court held that the substitution of the second originating summons was done outside 14 days required by law, and therefore became an invalid suit by the provision of Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution.
“Let me make it clear that a careful perusal of facts in this matter showed that the first defendant, Akeredolu, was nominated on July 20th, 2020, and the plaintiff came to court on July 29, 2020.”
“A new dimension however emerged when the plaintiff on August 20, 2020, substituted the originating summons of the July 29, with another one due to the error discovered in the first one that sued the office of the governor that did not participle in the disputed primary.
“This substitution having not been done withing 14 days allowed by Section 285 of the 1999 constitution makes this suit statute barred and constitutionally dead,” it said.
Justice Ekwo subsequently dismissed the suit on the ground that it was grossly incompetent to stand in the face of the law.