A Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday, dismissed a suit seeking the disqualification of Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun as the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, in Saturday’s Governorship Election holding in the state.
Delivering judgment, Justice Inyang Ekwo, declared that the suit filed by a chieftain of the APC, Alhaji Moshood Olalekan Adeoti, against Oyetola was an abuse of court process.
Adeoti, the plaintiff in the suit and an aspirant in the Feb. 19 of the party’s primary, filed the matter through his legal team led by Chiesonu Okpoko, SAN.
In the suit, the plaintiff listed the APC, Oyetola and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants respectively.
Justice Ekwo said he noted that the grounds of objection of the 2nd defendant (Oyetola) are identical with those of the 1st defendant (APC) save for phraseological differences which did not amount to any significant distinction.
“It is therefore my opinion that the resolution of the grounds of objection of the 1st defendant suffices in resolving the entire grounds of objection of the 2nd defendant,” he said.
The judge subsequently held that the subjection matter of the action filed by Adeoti fell outside the scope of matter under Section 87 (9) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) and Section 285 (14) (a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
He said that the subject matter of the suit fell within the internal affairs of the APC (1st defendant) and the court cannot interfere.
According to him, the plaintiff did not exhaust the internal mechanism provided by the constitution of the 1st defendant before filing this action, therefore, this action is premature.
Justice Ekwo who agreed with the APC and Oyetola’s arguments that the suit did not disclose a cause of action, decsribed the suit as “an abuse of process of Court.”
He said it was the position of the APC “that there is no iota of law which supports this case, therefore, the court processes filed by the plaintiff and the issue(s) canvassed therein are frivolous and reckless.”
“I am inclined to agree with the 1st defendant that there is no iota of law that supports this action.
“I find that this action is an abuse of process of this court and I so hold,” he said.
The judge stated further that “once a court is satisfied with the proceedings before it amounts to abuse of process, it has the right, in fact the duty, to invoke its coercive powers to punish the party which is in abuse of its process.
“Such power is often exercisable by a dismissal of the action which constituted the abuse.”
He said the court could only exercise jurisdiction in pre-election matter where the complaint is that any of the provisions of the Electoral Act and the guidelines of a political party has not been complied with in the selection or nomination of the candidate of a political party for election.
“I agree with the 1st defendant that there is no cause of action in this case, since it is not predicated on the provision of S. 87(9) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) which provides for cause of action in pre-election matters. Article 31 (iii) of the 1st defendant’s Constitution which the plaintiff claims was infringed does not provide cause of action as which gives a plaintiff his cause of complaint, and the consequent damage.”
On Adeoti’s argument that Oyetola’s membership of the Caretaker Extraordinary and Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the APC amounts to holding a party office, the judge said “it is pertinent to say that the assertion of the plaintiff has invited this court to consider whether or not membership of CECPC amounts to holding a party office.
“The constitution of the 1st defendant has its definition clause in Article 33 and the phrase ‘party office’ is not defined.
“I have also searched the said constitution for any provision for CECPC and found none.
First thing to be noted about the constitution of a political party is that it is a statutory instrument,” he said.
Justice Ekwo therefore agreed with the APC that the CECPC was an ad hoc arrangement of the party.
“This means the CECPC was an extra-constitutional means used by the 1st defendant to fill the void created by exigency in its administration.
“In that case, its membership does not amount to ‘party office’ provided for in Article 31(iii) of the 1st defendant’s Constitution,” he said.
According to the judge, I think it would have made sense if the plaintiff had challenged the establishment of the CECPC rather than the 2nd defendant’s membership of same.
“Consequently, I make an order dismissing this suit. This is the order of this court,” he declared.
Adeoti, who was an aspirant in the Feb. 19, Osun APC governorship primary in the originating summons dated Feb. 22 prayed the court to nullify Oyetola’s candidacy on the grounds that he (Oyetola) contested in the poll as a member of the party’s Caretaker Extraordinary and Convention Planning Committee (CECPC).
Adeoti said the act contravened the provisions of Section 222 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended) and Article 31(iii) of the APC (October 2014 as Amended).
According to him, Oyetola) ought to have resigned his membership of the APC CECPC and leave office as an officer of the 1st defendant at least 30 days prior to the date of the 1st defendant’s Osun State primary election to qualify for participation in the said 1st defendant’s primary election.