Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, today, disqualified the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its governorship candidate, Biodun Oyebanji, from participating in the June 18, 2022 Ekiti State governorship poll.
Justice Ekwo also held that the APC is not fielding any candidate in the election, having failed to comply with provisions of the Electoral Act as well as its guidelines in the conduct of party primary
The court subsequently sacked the APC and Oyebanji from participating in the governorship poll and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to delist APC and Oyebanji from the list of political parties and gubernatorial candidates for the election or at any subsequent postponement.
In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/528/22, Ekwo also ordered the APC to refund N22.5 million to Kayode Ojo, who was another APC governorship aspirant being cost of nomination and expression of interest forms for the primary election it failed to conduct
Ojo, was among the 8 aspirants, who purchased forms to contest the election under the APC platform, had sued the party, INEC and Oyebanji over his (Ojo’s) failure to secure the governorship ticket.
He claimed that he was robbed of the APC gubernatorial ticket in favour of Oyebanji and had prayed the court to hold that his party did not conduct a valid primary for the governorship poll.
Ojo also sought an order compelling INEC to delist APC and Oyebanji’s name from the list of political parties and gubernatorial candidates for the election or any subsequent postponement.
He, therefore, demanded N122.5 million damages from the APC, being the refund of payment for the expression of interest and nomination forms.
But following the court verdict, Oyebanji has maintained that he would appeal his disqualification by the Federal High Court in Abuja
Justice Ekwo held _inter alia:_ “It is my finding that the plaintiff has demonstrated upon preponderance of evidence that the gubernatorial primary election of the 1st defendant was not conducted in accordance with the provisions of Ss. 85 (2) and 87(1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and Articles 17 (vi) and 18(e), (9) and (0 of 1) Defendant’s Guidelines for the Nomination of Candidates for the Ekiti 2022 gubernatorial election,” Justice Ekwo held.
The judge explained that the real issue which both the APC and Oyebanji seemed not to understand was not whether accredited members of the APC voted on at the primaries but whether there was any primary election at all conducted in accordance with the mandatory provisions of both the Electoral Act (as amended) and the APC’s Guidelines for the Nomination of candidates for the Ekiti 2022 Gubernatorial Election-Direct Primaries (Option A4).
“When a primary election is illegal, the fact that such illegal election was monitored by the Nigeria Police (or other security agencies) as averred in paragraph 25 (i) of the 3rd defendant’s counter-affidavit is of no moment.
“The function of the Nigeria Police (or other security agencies) during primary election or even election proper is not to monitor same,” he held.
The judge explained that the court was inclined to grant the relief for refund of the sum paid by the plaintiff for the expression of interest form and nomination form since having voided the primary election APC cannot be allowed to benefit from its illegality.
“A declaration is hereby made that pursuant to the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) and 1st defendant’s guidelines for the nomination of candidates for the Ekiti 2022 gubernatorial election-direct primaries (Option A4), it is incumbent on the 1st defendant to conduct a primary election for emergence of its gubernatorial candidate for June 18, 2022 or any subsequent date in compliance with the provisions of the said Electoral Act and guidelines of the political party.
“A declaration is hereby made that by virtue of the non-conclusion of 1st defendant’s primary election process in Ekiti State for the emergence of its gubernatorial candidate for June 18, 2022 gubernatorial election, or the conduct of the said primary election in contravention of the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010, it had no candidate at the said election.
“An order of mandatory injunction is hereby made compelling the 2nd defendant to delist the names of 1st and 3rd defendants from the list of political parties and gubernatorial candidates for the June 18, 2022 gubernatorial election or at any subsequent postponement.
“1st defendant is hereby ordered to refund the sum of N22,500,000 (Twenty-two Milion Five Hundred Thousand Naira) paid by the plaintiff to 1st defendant for the expression of interest form and nomination form upon total failure of consideration.
But following the court verdict, Oyebanji has maintained that he would appeal his disqualification by the Federal High Court in Abuja.
One of his confidants, Dauda Lawal, confirmed to The News in an interview, yesterday, that the APC candidate would appeal the Abuja Federal High Court ruling.
Lawal, who argued that Justice Ekwo’s court was a court of first instance, said Oyebanji and APC would go to a higher court to seek nullification of order, adding that the judgment was a distraction from the governorship election holding on Saturday.
Courtesy: The SpadeNG