GOVERNOR BEN AYADE’S UNCEASING VICTORIES
Cross River State Governor, Prof Ben Ayade,on Thursday, January 12, 2023, scored yet another victory in another suit instituted against him by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Senator Jarigbe A. Jarigbe, challenging his candidature to contest election into the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to represent Cross River North Senatorial District in the 2023 General elections. The Hon. Justice A.R Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja, delivered judgment in favour of Governor Ayade (3rd Defendant in the suit) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) (2nd Defendant in the suit), in dismissing the Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/1248/2022, instituted by the PDP and Senator Jarigbe, who had claimed that the APC made Governor Ayade the Senatorial Candidate through an illegal election.
Ayade had, through his counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, argued that the PDP and Senator Jarigbe A. Jarigbe, as plaintiffs had no locus standi to institute the action, as they were neither members of the APC nor aspirants in the election conducted on 14th July, 2022, by the APC as prescribed by the Nigerian Constitution and the Electoral Act, 2022.
The Plaintiffs had through an Originating Summons filed on 27th July, 2022, approached the Federal High Court, Abuja, praying amongst others, for “AN ORDER of perpetual injunction restraining the 1st Defendant (INEC) their agents, servants, affiliates or privies from recognizing and dealing with the 2nd and 3rd Defendants, or any other person, as the 2nd Defendant’s candidate for the Cross River North Senatorial District election in the forthcoming National Assembly elections to be held on the 25th February, 2022 (or any other date that may be fixed).
Also joined as Co-defendants with Ayade in the suit challenging the APC primaries were INEC, APC, Martin Ovim (who had earlier won the May 28, 2022 Senatorial primaries, but had resigned to enable a fresh primaries be conducted by INEC). It was from this fresh primaries that Ayade emerged as the sole contestant and winner on 14th July, 2022. Cecilia Adams, the 5th Defendant, had earlier instituted a similar suit against Governor Ayade, but had lost same at the Federal High Court, before Justice Nkeonye Evelyn Maha, on a similar ground that she lacked locus standi to have instituted that suit against Governor Ayade, having not participated in the APC primaries of 14th July, 2022, from which Governor Ayade duly emerged as the APC candidate for the Cross River North Senatorial District. The court had held that Mrs Adams failed to establish or prove that Ayade was not properly nominated by his party; or that any of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, the Electoral Act, INEC Guidelines, or the Constitution of APC, had in any way been breached by the APC or Ayade in his emergence as the APC Senatorial candidate.
Justice A.R Mohammed, in his judgment while dismissing the Suit, aligned himself with the submissions of Chief Ozekhome, SAN, in his Preliminary Objection which wrecked in totality the case of the PDP and Senator Jarigbe A. Jarigbe. He held that the Plaintiffs did not have any locus standi to approach the court as nothing in section 285(14)(c) of the Constitution permitted the Plaintiffs to bring such a case.
The section above made use of the word “its candidate”, not “any candidate”, and thus, was referring to the political party itself which was dissatisfied with the candidate it produced; and not any other political party dissatisfied with such party’s candidate. The Court stated that it was robbed of the jurisdiction to entertain the matter, the Plaintiffs having failed to demonstrate that not only were they members of the APC, but that they were also aspirants who had contested in the primaries being challenged. The court further held that the Plaintiffs by their own Originating Summons had already confirmed that they were neither members of the APC nor did they participate in the election; thus making them total strangers to the APC’s politics.
It was finally held by Justice A.R Mohammed that the Plaintiffs lacked the locus standi to institute this matter and this, stripped the court of jurisdiction to hear same. It follows therefore that the court could not hear any of the other issues for determination that had been raised by the Plaintiffs. The suit was therefore struck out by Justice Mohammed for want of jurisdiction.