A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, has dismissed a suit seeking to disqualify the Anambra State governor-elect Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo over claims of false information in his nomination form to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC),
The court presided over by Justice Taiwo Taiwo, while dismissing the suit instituted by Adindu Valentine and Egwudike Chukwuebuka, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/711/2021, to the effect that Soludo lied in the affidavit (Form EC9), which he submitted to INEC, said the plaintiffs did not prove how they were misled by the information.
Adindu and Chukwuebuka, had claimed that Soludo, in the said affidavit attached to his nomination form, stated that he was contesting the Aguata 2 Constituency seat, when, in fact, he was contesting the governorship seat, while his running mate and Deputy Governor-elect, Onyeka Ibezim, also submitted to INEC, contained false particulars considering that he stated that he was vying for Awka 2 Constituency seat.
Also named as defendants in the suit, which surfaced days after the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria was declared winner of the November 6 governorship election in the state, were the INEC, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Soludo and Ibezim.
Their (plaintiffs’) lawyers, A. O. Ijeri and Kelvin Okoko, had argued that having indicated the wrong seat on the form, Soludo, violated extant legal provisions and ought to be disqualified.
“The constitution has made a state a constituency in relation to the governorship election, but in this case, the third defendant (Soludo) named Aguata 2 as the constituency he is contesting.
“The cause of action in a pre-election matter, by the provision of Section 285(9) of the Constitution, is determined by the date of the occurrence of the event, a decision or action complained about in the suit by the Plaintiff.
“And in the instant suit, the cause of action of the Plaintiffs arose on July 6, 2021, when the 3rd Defendant’s (Soludo’s) Form EC9 was submitted by the political party (the 2nd Defendant)”, they argued.
Replying, however, Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), who queried jurisdiction of the court to entertain the matter which he maintained was statue barred, and as it was filed out of the 14 days time, argued that error in an affidavit could not be a basis to disqualify a candidate from an election.
Emphasising that false information claimed by the Plaintiffs was not among the grounds stated in the 1999 Constitution for the disqualification of a candidate, he said: “False information, as envisage in Section 31 of the Electoral Act is criminal in nature. Section 31 does not deal with error, but a deliberate effort to steal a match and to misrepresent.”
Bashir Abubakar, lawyer to INEC, declined to join issues with any of the parties, saying they would would leave the issue being canvassed by them to the discretion of the court.
Taiwo, who dismissed the preliminary objection challenging the competence of the suit and jurisdiction of the court to hear it, however held that the Plaintiffs, failed to establish that they had a reasonable cause of action, as the plaintiffs failed to convince the court on how the alleged false information both Soludo and Ibezim supplied to INEC, misled them.
Taiwo also held that since the allegation by the Plaintiffs were also criminal in nature, it ought to be proved beyond reasonable doubt, adding that the suit was filed in bad faith and a good example of cases that are not geared towards strengthening of the tenets of democracy in the country.
“I am yet to come to terms on the purpose for which this suit was filed. I am saying this because I am not convinced that this action is reasonable”, Justice Taiwo added and consequently slammed N2million cost against the plaintiffs, in favour of the APGA, Soludo and Ibezim.