….COURT FIXES AUGUST 4 FOR JUDGMENT
The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ekiti State and the Governor-elect, Mr. Biodun Oyebanji, have urged a Federal High Court sitting in Ado Ekiti to dismiss a suit filed by an aggrieved aspirant, Mr. Kayode Ojo challenging the result of the January 27 governorship primary.
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).
Oyebanji who emerged as the APC candidate from the primary went ahead to win the June 18 governorship election in the state.
At the sitting of the court held on Friday, parties in the suit marked FHC/AD/CS/151/2022 adopted their written addresses and moved all pending applications after which the presiding judge, Justice Babs Kuewumi, fixed Thursday, August 4 for judgment in the case.
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.
The plaintiff, Ojo, was represented by his counsel, Dr. Alex Izinyon (SAN) while Mr. Shaibu Aruwa (SAN) appeared for the 1st defendant (APC). Mr. Kabir Akingbolu appeared for the 2nd defendant, Oyebanji.
The 4th-7th defendants were represented by Mr. Samson Adanlawo while Tamunotonye Ekundayo appeared for the 8th-13th defendants. Nimi Ayua appeared for the 14th-16th defendants and Adedayo Adewumi for the 17th-19th defendants. Ekene Luke stood in for the 20th defendants.
However, the 4th defendant (INEC), was not represented by any counsel at the adoption of written addresses.
Counsel to the plaintiff, Izinyon, moved and adopted his written address urging the court to declare his client (Ojo), who came second in the exercise as the rightful winner of the Ekiti APC governorship primary poll.
But counsel to the 1st, 2nd and the 4th-20th defendants in the suit urged the court to dismiss the case and hold that the primary which produced Oyebanji as winner was valid and complied with the Constitution, party constitution and guidelines.
Pending applications moved by counsels to defendants include applications for extension of time to file statements of defence, replies on points of law, preliminary objections urging the court to grant same.
Counsel to the plaintiff also moved his reply to all the applications particularly describing the preliminary objections by defendants’ counsel as “bogus and amorphous.”
While adopting written his address Oyebanji’s counsel, Akingbolu maintained that there was no pleading as to the declaration of the result of the primary maintaining that “there must be a result on ground before the plaintiff could challenge same” citing the case of Orji v Ugochukwu as reported in 2009 14 NWLR pt 1161 at 207 PG 284-285.
Akingbolu also drew the attention of the court to the evidence of Defence Witness 1, an INEC official who testified that the primary was free, fair and monitored by the Police and other security agencies.
He argued further that the plaintiff has not met the conditions that could warrant challenging the outcome of the primary which include the violation of the Electoral Act, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the party guidelines adding that all party members were given the opportunity to vote and his (Ojo’s) agents participated at the primary.
While arguing for the dismissal of the suit, Akingbolu urged the court “to resist the dangerous invitation by the plaintiff that the free and fair primary be wished away.”
Opposing Akingbolu’s position, Izinyon maintained that the court has what he described as “incontrovertible evidence” before it to do justice to the plaintiff describing the court as “the last hope to redress this injustice.”
While maintaining that Ojo was as aspirant in the January 27 primary, Izinyon said the court has been vested with the power to nullify the election if it was not held in compliance with the provisions of the law.
Izinyon described the evidence given by Defence Witness 1 referred to by Akingbolu as “grotesque and laughable” maintaining that the plaintiff has satisfied all requirements to be granted the reliefs he is seeking before the court.
Counsel to the 8th-13th defendant, Ekundayo, urged the court to dismiss Ojo’s case on grounds that he has failed to prove the alleged non-compliance with extant laws and rules guiding the conduct of party primaries.
Counsel to the 14th-16th defendants, Ayua, contended that “the plaintiff cannot do a 360 degree swoop at the address stage when his pleadings are before the court in his testimony given as a witness, Plaintiff Witness 1 (PW1) under cross-examination.
Counsel to the 17th-19th defendants, Adewumi, described the writ of Summons filed by the plaintiff as “incompetent” hence it should be dismissed.
Counsel to the 20th defendant, Ekene, relied on all submissions by other counsels in the suit.
After listening to all counsels before him, Justice Kuewumi adjourned the case till 4th of August for ruling on all applications moved and the final judgment.
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.
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.