The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal has thrown out a case instituted by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, seeking the disqualification of Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Kashim Shettima as the presidential and vice-presidential candidates of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the February 25 election.
It would be recalled that the PDP had prayed the Court of Appeal to upturn the January 13 judgment delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which dismissed its suit because the PDP lacked the locus standi to have instituted the suit.
Other parties dragged before the court are; Kashim Shettima, and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
In its legal offensive, the main opposition PDP had prayed to the judge for:
“A declaration of the Honourable Court that by the provisions of Section 35 of the Electoral Act 2022, the 4th Respondent is disqualified from participating in the February 25th, 2023 Presidential Election having knowingly allowed himself to be nominated in two constituencies as Senator Borno Central District and as Vice-Presidential Candidate of the 2nd Respondent.
“A declaration that the nominations of the 3rd and 4th Respondents as Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates of the 2nd Respondent are void having regards to the double nominations of the 4th Respondent.
“An Order disqualifying the 3rd and 4th Defendants from contesting or participating in the forthcoming 2023 Presidential General Election as a candidate of the 2nd Defendant.
“An Order directing the 1st Respondent to strike off the names of the 3rd and 4th Respondents as candidates of the 2nd Respondent eligible to contest for the Presidential Election slated for February 25th 2023.
“An injunction restraining the 3rd and 4th Respondent from further representing themselves as candidates of the 2nd Respondent for the Presidential Election slated for 23rd February 2023.
“An Order restraining the 2nd Respondent from further nominating candidates for the Presidential Election scheduled for the 25th of February 2023.
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“And for such orders as the Honourable Court may deem fit to make as consequential to the reliefs sought by the Plaintiffs in this suit.”
But in its defence, the APC through its lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Babatunde Ogala, filed a Memorandum of Conditional Appearance, a Notice of Preliminary Objection and a Counter-Affidavit with Written Addresses.
The Preliminary Objection of the ruling APC was premised on the following grounds:
“That the Plaintiffs not being aspirants in the Primaries of the 2nd Defendant, lacked the Locus standi to institute and maintain the suit against the 2nd Defendant.
“The Originating Summons is incompetent, not issued or sealed by the Registrar of the Federal High Court.
“The Plaintiffs lacked the cause of action to institute or maintain the suit against the 2nd Defendant.
“That the suit was statute barred and robbed the Court of the jurisdiction to entertain the same, and the suit constituted an abuse of court process.”
When the case came up for hearing on October 25, 2022, Gbenga Benson, from the chamber of Ogala (SAN) appeared for the APC and adopted on behalf of the ruling party the Notice of Preliminary Objection, Counter Affidavit and Written Addresses and prayed the Court to dismiss/strike out the suit for want of jurisdiction.
In handing down his judgment, Justice Ekwo who adjudicated over the case agreed with counsel to the 2nd Defendant (APC) that the Plaintiff had no locus standi to file the action not being an aspirant who partook in the Primaries of the 2nd Defendant as mandated by Section 29(5) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
Furthermore, the judge declared that the reliance on the provisions of Section 285(14)(c) of the 1999 Constitution would not avail the Plaintiff, as it is meant for political parties to file actions against INEC with respect to its candidates and not another political party’s candidates.
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Justice Ekwo, having held that the Plaintiffs who were not aspirants in the Primaries of the 2nd Respondent lacked locus standi and being a threshold issue, dismissed the suit as lacking in merit.
Not satisfied with the decision of the Federal High Court, the Plaintiff (now Appellants) challenged the decision of the trial Court.
However, in a unanimous decision, a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal, led by Justice James Abundaga, declared that the opposition failed to establish its locus standi.