20 Mar 2015

Court strikes out suit challenging Obanikoro’s eligibility to hold public office

Justice Kazeem Alogba of an Ikeja High Court yesterday struck out a suit seeking to stop the newly-appointed Minister of State for Foreign Affairs II, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, from ever contesting for any elective office in Nigeria.

The suit was struck out on the grounds that the documentary evidence tendered before the court were not admissible in law.
“Legally admissible documents were not tendered before this court. There is no evidence therefore that the defendant committed perjury.

“The originating summons is incompetent and ought to be struck out. The incompetence of the suit robs the court the jurisdiction to entertain the suit on its merit.

“The court will therefore not bother to go into the merit of the matter as same would amount to a mere academic exercise,” Justice Alogba held.
Three members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos, Babatunde Ogun, Suleiman Saheed and Wasiu Adeniyi Odusan had filed the suit in November 2014.

Joined in the suit as respondents were the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the PDP.

The plaintiffs, through their counsel, Mr. Wahab Shittu, had alleged that the ex-Minister of State for Defence had at one time or the other falsified his age and had submitted a forged birth certificate to INEC for the purpose of contesting governorship election in Lagos State.

They therefore urged the court to determine whether Obanikoro was eligible to participate in the gubernatorial primary election of the PDP scheduled for December 8, 2014, the State based on the provision of Paragraph 4 (a) of Part iv of the Electoral Guidelines for Primary Elections 2014 of the INEC.

The plaintiffs had also filed an ex parte application, wherein they urged Justice Alogba to stop Obanikoro from participating in the PDP governorship primary of December 8, 2014, in the tate.

But Justice Alogba declined to stop Obanikoro from participating in the said primary in which he eventually lost to Mr. Jimi Agbaje.

Shittu, had vehemently argued that the matter was one that bordered on constitutional infringement.

He added that whatever judgment arrived at by the court would become an important reference point on the nation’s political landscape.
“A democracy is principally founded on the rule of law. At all times, there are two choices to make, whether you want to be guided by the rule of law or by the culture of impunity. Your Lordship will decide this issue for history and for posterity,” Shittu said.
According to him, Obanikoro’s alleged misconduct were an affront on Section 182(1) (a) (j) of the 1999 Constitution and sections 31 (2), 50 (6) and (8) and 87 of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.

Objecting to Shittu’s submission, Obanikoro’s counsel, Mr. Gbenga Ojo, had argued that the suit was an abuse of court processes.

Ojo urged the court to dismiss the suit for failure to disclose any reasonable cause of action.

He added that the case had been overtaken by events and had thus become merely academic, since the PDP governorship primary had already been held and Obanikoro had stood for the election.

Shittu however asked the court not to look at the exhibits presented by the plaintiffs in isolation but to consider them in concert with the averrments in the plaintiffs’ affidavit.

Credit: Akinwale Akintunde/ThisDay

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