From Priscilla Ediare, Ado-Ekiti
A Federal High Court sitting in Ado Ekiti has thrown out a suit filed by a contestant in the January 27 All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship primary, Mr. Kayode Ojo, challenging the victory of the Governor-elect, Mr. Biodun Oyebanji.
The court upheld the preliminary objection of the counsel to Oyebanji, Mr. Kabir Akingbolu, that the writ of summons and statement of claims of Ojo were defective which dealt a fatal blow to the case.
The court in a judgment on Thursday delivered by the presiding judge, Justice Babs Kuewumi, threw out Ojo’s case and agreed with the Oyebanji’s counsel that the discrepancies in the originating processes had rendered the case academic.
Justice Kuewumi held that the names of counsel on the Plaintiff’s originating summons and statement and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) stamp ran contrary which is against the law rendering the suit defective and incompetent.
While the name on the NBA stamp of one of the lawyers of Ojo reads “Moroof Bolanle,” the one that appears on the list of lawyers submitted for the case reads “Olayinka Bolanle.”
According to the judge, a further scrutiny on the Plaintiff’s writ of summons and statement of claim reveals two different signatures which renders the suit invalid ab initio.
“The signatures on the writ of summons and the statement of claim are not the same. There is no jurisdiction, there is no case. I will make copies of my judgment available to counsels tomorrow.
“Having ruled on the issue of objection, there is no further judgment to deliver. The Plaintiff is free to approach the higher court for appeal,” the judge held.
Earlier, the judge expressed appreciation to all counsels for their industry and cooperation as the matter was expeditiously heard and determined.
Counsel to the Ojo, Mr. Taiwo Ogunmoroti, had earlier urged the court to make the judgment available to him for perusal and any possible action.
But counsel to Oyebanji, Mr. Akingbolu, in a chat with reporters after the judgment was delivered, expressed satisfaction with the verdict which he said was in line with the law and the rules of the court.
Akingbolu said: “Before a process is filed in court, a known lawyer must sign it but many lawyers subscribed to this originating process but there was only one signature. The law is that you must tick the name of the person who signed it and this was not done in this case.
“Again, the NBA seal, which is the authority of office for a lawyer to signal document was affixed but the name on the seal was different from the one on all the process.
“So, there was no way the court could determine whether it was signed by a clerk or whether it was signed by a street urchin or a lawyer. On the ground, the court has rightly thrown away the case and the whole thing has crumbled.
“What the court is saying is that whatever you put on it cannot stand. You cannot build a castle in the air, it is not just possible.”
There was a massive security build-up around the court as operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Nigeria Police checked vehicles and individuals entering the premises.
The judgment was consequent upon the adoption of written addresses by parties in the suit last Friday, July 29 in which their counsels urged the court to uphold their statement of claims and grant them the reliefs they were seeking.
The APC which organized the primary election using the Modified Open Ballot System (MOBS) otherwise known as Direct Primary is the 1st Defendant while Oyebanji, who went ahead to win the June 18 governorship poll, is the 2nd Defendant in the suit.
Other defendants in the suit are the Independent National Electoral Commission (3rd), Ayo Adegbite (4th), Adeoye Aribasoye (5th), Vincent Bewaji (6th), Goke Olajide (7th), Lateef Akanle (8th), Richard Apolola (9th), Kayode Fasakin (10th), Adu Joseph (11th) and Teju Okuyiga (12th).
The rest defendants are Olumide Fadipe (13th), Dele Oloje (14th), Victor Adeniyi (15th), Folorunso Olabode (16th), Deji Ajayi (17th), Sunkanmi Onipede (18th), Kemi Olaleye (19th) and the Secretary and Members of the Ekiti APC 2022 Gubernatorial Primary Electoral Committee (20th).
The 4th-19th defendants served as Chairmen of the Electoral Committees/Returning Officers in the 16 Local Government Areas during the Ekiti APC Governorship Primary held across the state.
Dissatisfied with the conduct of the primary, Ojo approached the court to challenge what he called “gross irregularities” faulting the use of individuals he described as political appointees as electoral committee/returning officers.
According to the official result declared by the Chairman of the Ekiti APC 2022 Governorship Primary Election Committee, Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa State, Oyebanji polled 101, 703 votes to defeat Ojo who came second with 767 votes.
But the APC and Oyebanji who are the 1st and 2nd defendants in the suit maintained that the direct primary held in all the 177 wards in the state were valid and were in compliance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), the constitution and guidelines of the party (APC).
Other aspirants and their scores are Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, 760 votes; Prince Dayo Adeyeye, 691 votes; Hon. Femi Bamisile, 400 votes, Hon. Bamidele Faparusi, 376 votes; Otunba Ademola Popoola, 239 votes and Mr. Oluwasola Afolabi, 47 votes.
A total number of 104, 983 party members showed up and were counted on the queues at the 177 wards cutting across the 16 local government areas during the shadow poll.