• ‘They’ll fail woefully’
By Job Osazuwa, Godwin Tsa and Fred Itua, Abuja
A Federal High Court sitting in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, has dismissed the suit filed by Senator Dino Melaye, challenging the validity of a process by his constituents to recall him.
Melaye represents Kogi West senatorial district in the Eighth Senate.
In his judgment, yesterday, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, ordered that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) “shall proceed with the recall process.”
The judgment brought an end to an ex parte order made by another judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja, Justice John Tsoho, on July 6, 2017, which directed parties to maintain status quo
Justice Dimgba, who took over the matter, however, ordered INEC shall only go ahead with the recall upon service of the petition, the full list and signatures of persons in support of the recall process to Melaye.
In addition, Justice Dimgba noted that the 90 days period within which the Constitution ordered INEC to conduct a referendum on receiving the recall petition had been on hold since June 23, when Melaye commenced the suit.
The judge ordered that the period would only continue running from Monday (yesterday), when the judgment was given.
Meanwhile, the court has also ordered INEC to issue an amended recall timetable which would allow senator Melaye a minimum of two weeks, to defend the issues raised against him .
The court further ordered that the amended timetable should be served on the Senator.
In dismissing his suit, Justice Dimgba held that contrary to Melaye’s contention, there was no provision in section 69 of the Constitution requiring his constituents to afford him fair hearing before sending such petition to INEC.
Justice Dimgba also admitted that although the Constitution did not expressly provide that INEC must serve the affected legislator with the petition and the accompanying documents, it was required in the spirit of fair hearing so that the legislator could be equipped to fight the recall.
The judge described Melaye’s suit as “hasty, premature and presumptuous” as the INEC had already scheduled the exercise for the verification of the authenticity of the signatures in support of the petition being complained about by Melaye.
“He must first go into the verification exercise, and only when he does not get justice can he come to court,” Justice Dimgba ruled.
The judge also dismissed the argument that the the number of signatures did not meet the threshold stipulated in the Constitution.
He insisted that on the face of the statistical analysis accompanying the suit, the number of signatures to kick start the recall process in the Kogi West senatorial district which is 188, 588 out of the 360,100 registered voters in the district, had been met.
Meanwhile, Melaye has accused the Federal Government, Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, heads of security agencies and INEC of persecution, following yesterday’s court ruling that the electoral umpire should go ahead with his recall process.
In a statement personally signed by Melaye, the lawmaker dropped hints that he will appeal the judgment.
Melaye said: “My great people of Kogi West senatorial district, in the face of obvious persecution and appealable judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja, let not your heart be troubled.
“Lies will never overtake or conquer the truth. The presence of the Kogi State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Court today over a matter that Kogi state is not joined as a party, shows the clear collaborative efforts of INEC and Kogi state government.
“However, these combined efforts of governor Bello, INEC, top federal government officials and top security agents to harangue and stampede me out of the Senate against the will of Kogi West constituents will fail woefully.