A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja yesterday dismissed a suit challenging the validity of the primary election that produced Governor Rotimi Akeredolu as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State in the last gubernatorial election.
The trial judge, Justice Iyang Ekwo, in a judgment held that the suit instituted by one Olajumoke Anifowose, was statute barred having been filed outside 14 days allowed by law for a preelection matter. Anifowose in the suit filed on her behalf by her counsel, Adesina Oke, had challenged the indirect primary election that produced Akeredolu as the nominated governorship candidate of APC. She contended that section 87 of the Electoral Act and Article 20 of the APC constitution and other relevant election guidelines were violated in the primary election by the state executive committee and local government committees of APC that conducted the primary election.
The Plaintiff therefore applied for an order of the court declaring the primary election invalid and to bar the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from recognising Akeredolu as a governorship candidate. She also prayed the court to prohibit APC from submitting Akeredolu’s name as its governorship candidate and Akeredolu from parading himself as a gubernatorial candidate. But Justice Ekwo upheld the preliminary objection against the suit by Akeredolu and APC, who claimed that the court action was grossly incompetent since it was not filed within the 14 days required by law and by that, that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
Although, Justice Ekwo noted that Akeredolu was nominated by APC on July 20, and the plaintiff instituted the suit on July 29, which fell within 14 days stipulated by law, the suit however became incompetent due to the withdrawal of the initial originating summon and its substitution on August 20 by the plaintiff.
The court held that the substitution of the second originating summon was done outside the 14 days required by law, and therefore became an invalid suit by the provision of section 285 of the 1999 Constitution. “Let me make it clear that a careful perusal of facts in this matter showed that the first defendant, Akeredolu, was nominated on July, 20, 2020, and the plaintiff came to court on July 29, 2020. “A new dimension, however, emerged when the plaintiff on August 20, 2020, substituted the originating summon of the July 29, with another one due to the error discovered in the first one that sued the office of the governor that did not participate in the disputed primary.