Appeal Court overturns judgment on fresh primaries, reinstates Ogun PDP candidates

November 29, 2022
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By Eric Ikhilae, Abuja and Bisi Oladele, Southwest Bureau Chief, Ibadan

• Machina confirmed as APC’s Yobe North candidate

Reprieve came the way of the embattled Ogun State branch of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate Oladipupo Adebutu and other elected candidates of his faction yesterday as the Court of Appeal, Ibadan Division affirmed their candidature.

The appellate court set aside the September 27, 2022 judgment of the Federal High Court, Abeokuta which nullified their primary elections.

The court also reinstated the three senatorial candidates, nine House of Representatives and 26 House of Assembly candidates produced through the primaries of the party conducted by the National Working Committee (NWC) and monitored by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Justice O. O. Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, had, on September 27, voided the primaries which produced Adebutu and others.

The judge directed the conduct of fresh primaries within 14 days, which was undertaken and which produced a new set of candidates for the party.

The faction of the party also expelled Adebutu.

But the appellate court ruled yesterday that the lower court erred in its judgment.

It said those who filed the suit at the lower court had no locus standi because they did not participate in the primary.

The faction added that the primaries that produced Adebutu and other candidates were conducted by the National Working Committee (NEC) of the party.

Adebutu, in the appeal number, had approached the appellate court seeking an order setting aside the judgment of the lower court to revalidate his candidature in the forthcoming election.

In a unanimous judgment read by Justice Nimpar Yargata, the appellate court held that the lower court fell into error by voiding the primary which produced Adebutu, having been conducted by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.

Other members of the panel are: Justices Folasade Ojo, Abba Muhammed and Moore Adumein.

Yargata said Taiwo Olabode Idris and others who instituted the case at the lower court were not aspirants of the party and consequently had no locus to challenge the outcome of the primaries.

She said the court’s decision in APC versus Umar, which the respondents relied heavily upon in their submissions before the court had been overtaken by current provision in the Electoral Act, 2022, which says only aspirants can query the outcome of primary elections.

The judge declared that only the NWC of the party, and not the State Working Committee, (SWC) has the power to conduct primaries, as spelt out in Section 221 of the 1999 Constitution.

The judge held that there was a contradiction in the respondents’ relief of a declaration to pronounce Mr. Jimi Lawal as the governorship candidate.

According to him, those who filed the initial suit had no stand in law to do so as the issue of primary is not a human rights matter.

She said the trial court “went on a frolic on its own” by voiding the primaries that produced Adebutu, describing the candidate’s appeal as meritorious.

After resolving all issues in favour of Adebutu and allowing his appeal, Justice Yargata set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court and all the orders made therein.

Judgments delivered in three other suits on the same issues, which were filed by other candidates, went the same way as the appellate court also set aside the judgment of the lower court.

They include appeals and cross-appeals by the PDP and by the respondents in the suit filed at the lower court by Prince Segun Seriki against the PDP.

Justice Ojo had described the latter primaries (conducted by Seriki and others) which produced another governorship and other candidates as “an unlawful gathering.”

Also, the Court of Appeal in Abuja has upheld an earlier judgment by a Federal High Court in Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, which held that Senate President Ahmad Lawan was not the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Yobe North Senatorial District in next year’s election.

The Federal High Court had held, among others, that Lawan did not participate in APC’s legally recognised primary election of May 28, 2022 to select its candidate in the election.

In a judgment yesterday, a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal, led by the court’s President, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, held that the second primary election conducted by APC on June 9, 2022 was invalid as it was held in breach of the Constitution.

The court insisted that the June 9 primary was not monitored by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as required by law.

The APC made a case at the appellant court for itself and its preferred candidate, Ahmad Lawan, but failed to make him a co-appellant.

The party declared the appeal filed by the APC as unmeritorious, saying it failed in its entirety.

The court awarded N1 million cost against the APC in favour of the first respondent, Bashir Sheriff.

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