Idowu Olakunle, Abeokuta
A Federal High Court sitting in Abeokuta, Ogun State Capital, has dismissed three different cases filed against the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its governorship candidate, Prince Dapo Abiodun, challenging his victory at the party’s primaries conducted on May 26, 2022.
Hon Justice Joyce O Abdulmalik, dismissed the cases for various reasons ranging from lack of merit, to lack of jurisdiction, incompetence, frivolity, academic exercise and being statue barred.
The Judge also awarded a “joint cost” of N2 million against the litigants and in favour of APC and its candidate in each of the three cases.
In the suit instituted by Mrs Sherifat Eweje against APC and Dapo Abiodun, the Judge held that a person who did not participate in a primary election for an office cannot invoke the limited jurisdiction of the court to challenge the outcome of that primary.
The Judge remarked that Mrs Eweje bought a form for a legislative seat and did not buy a form for the governorship.
The Judge added that Mrs Eweje even withdrew her candidacy on 10 May 2022 long before she filed the suit and long before 26 May, 2022 when the governorship primary held.
In that circumstance, the court concluded and declared that Plaintiff (Mrs Eweje) had no locus standi to bring the action.
The court also held that Plaintiff’s suit is statute barred because it was filed more than 14 days after the cause of action arose.
Consequently, the court declared the suit incompetent and struck it out, describing all other issues raised in the case as academic issues, since the court has no jurisdiction.
The Court awarded a joint costs of ₦2m in favour of 1st and 2nd defendants for the institution of the suit.
In the second case filed by Semiu Olanrewaju Alao, the court resolved the issue of locus standi first.
The Judge found that Plaintiffs were not aspirants because by their own averments, they were not even sold delegate forms and as such, did not participate in any election whether primary or delegates elections.
This meant that some of the plaintiffs were not aspirants in the primary elections and as such did not qualify under the Constitution to file the case. The Judge then declared that the Plaintiffs who were not aspirants had no locus standi to file the case.
Regarding the singular Plaintiff who claimed to be a delegate, the Judge remarked that all the Plaintiffs acknowledged that 4th Defendant is the Chairman of 5th Defendant and yet the document that Plaintiffs showed highlighting the alleged delegate’s name as a delegate was not authenticated by the said 4th Defendant as sent to the National Chairman. The court concluded that Plaintiffs’ counsel failed woefully to establish that 2nd Plaintiff was a delegate and thus failed to establish the locus standi of the Plaintiffs to file the case. The court then declared the case as incompetent. A Cost of ₦2 million was awarded against Plaintiffs in favour of 1st, 4th, and 5th Defendants.
In the third case, Nuberu Olufemi Adesanya & 2 Ors v. INEC & 3 Ors, the Court cited the case of Alli Modu Sheriff v. PDP., to the effect that a political party is a voluntary club and its decisions are binding on its members who must obey the Party or leave the Party. Ruling on objections raised by APC, the court agreed that under the APC Constitution, offences against the party include filing an action against Party or its officials without first exhausting internal remedies. The court found that the purported complaint filed by Plaintiffs was misdirected as under the Party Constitution, it must start from the ward level and climb its way up. The Court held that the Plaintiff did not exhaust the internal remedy of the party and the case filed was “not justiciable.”
The court added that the parties had an obligation to exhaust internal remedies but failed to do so. Instead of submitting complaints to their wards and working those complaints up the ladder of the Party’s dispute resolution structure, they rushed to court and filed cases that pertain to matters that are not justiciable, being internal affairs of APC. The court reminded the litigants that APC is a voluntary organisation and the will of the majority will prevail in APC. A joint cost of ₦2m was also awarded in favour of 1st – 3rd Defendants in the matter.