*Court orders accelerated hearing
Alex Enumah in Abuja
There was a new twist Thursday as the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and two others joined in the suit by the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Mr Godwin Emefiele, seeking court’s determination of his right to participate in the 2023 presidential election.
The court had on Monday adjourned to Thursday to enable the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) appear before it to explain why the court should not restrain them from preventing the CBN Governor from realizing his political ambition by participating in all the processes leading to the 2023 presidential election.
The summoning of INEC and AGF was sequel to a motion exparte argued by Emefiele’s lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, to restrain the two defendants from taking any step that would jeopardize the interest of his client.
Ruling in the exparte, Justice Mohammed had ordered the CBN Governor to serve all court processes in relation to the suit he filed against INEC and the AGF who are 1st and 2nd defendants respectively.
However, when the matter was called on Thursday, both INEC and AGF were in court in line with the court’s order.
However, instead of proceeding with the case of the CBN Governor, two lawyers stood up to announce appearances for their clients.
First was a Senior advocate of Nigeria, Chief Sebastiane Hon, who informed the court of the intention of his client, the PDP to join as an interested party, which was immediately followed by one John Martins and Olukunle Ebun, who told the court that they are sueing for themselves and on behalf of the Save Nigeria our Fatherland.
Responding, Emefiele’s lawyer, who did not oppose the applicants joining the suit, undertook to serve the applicants with all processes within 24 hours.
While IINEC through its lawyer, Mr Ibrahim Inuwa, SAN did not also oppose the application for joinder, that of the AGF, Mr Dipo Okpeseyi, SAN, did and urged the court to ensure that only proper parties should be allowed to join in the matter.
In a short ruling, the court joined the PDP, John Martins and Olukunle Ebun as 3rd, 4th and 5th defendants respectively.
Justice Mohammed in addition ordered accelerated hearing in the matter, adding that while the 1st and 2nd defendants were directed to respond to the plaintiff’s suit within Monday and Tuesday, the 3rd to 5th defendants have up till Wednesday next week to respond and the plaintiff, 24 hours to reply on point of law.
Justice Mohammed subsequently adjourned to May 23 for parties to adopt their final written addresses.
Justice Mohammed while warning that the court will not entertain any request for extension of time since all parties have pledged to the accelerated hearing of the matter, also warned parties not to take any step that would undermine the proceedings.
Emefiele had amongst others approached the Federal High Court for an Order restraining the defendants from preventing or hindering his participating in the process of the presidential election slated for February next year.
He expressed the fear that any political party he chooses to affiliate with in realizing his political ambition may disqualify him based on the provisions of Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, 2022, which had barred political appointees from participating in the congresses and conventions of political parties unless the resigned 30 days to such conventions and congresses.
Specifically, he argued that by virtue of being a public servant he cannot be barred from participating in the political primaries of political parties by Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
He submitted that Constitutional provisions stipulated that he can only resign his appointment as Governor of CBN 30 days to the presidential election which he is interested in contesting.
Amongst the court processes he filed before the court was an application for maintenance of status, which he predicated on the fact that he would be prejudiced against or hurt if the court does not restrain the defendants from taking any step that would jeopardize his desire to contest the presidential election.
Arguing the motion for maintenance of status quo, Emefiele’s lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, told the court that Emefiele “is in a delimma” as to whether he can run in the forthcoming presidential election.
According to Ozekhome, time is of utmost importance, following the fact that timeline for collection of nomination and expression of interest forms ends on Wednesday May 11.
Ozekhome in addition told the court that timeline for the primaries and congresses of political parties have been fixed for May 30 to June 1, and unless the court intervened there will be a carriage of great injustice against his client.
“He needs the protection of the court, the court needs to ensure that nobody does anything that will hurt him”, the senior lawyer submitted, adding that if the court refused to grant the order for maintenance of status quo restraining the defendants from hindering Emefiele from participating in the primary election under a political party of his choice within this period, the case would amount to a mere academic exercise by the time parties return to the court.