The Abuja division of the Court of Appeal has affirmed Senator Ayogu Eze as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in tomorrow’s governorship election in Enugu State.
In a unanimous judgement delivered yesterday by Justice Abdul Aboki, the court upheld the appeal filed by Eze and declared him the rightfully nominated candidate of the party.
Accordingly, the court set aside the judgement of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo, which had earlier ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to replace Eze with George Ogara as the party’s governorship candidate for Enugu State.
Justice Aboki voided the Federal High Court’s decision on the ground that the suit brought before it had become statute barred and not competent in law, having been filed outside the mandatory 14 days stipulated by section 285 (9) of the 1999 Constitution, fourth alteration act, 2017.
The appeal court specifically held that the suit filed by Ogara at the trial court was caught by the fourth alteration act to the 1999 Constitution, which as a new law makes it mandatory for all pre-election matters to be filed within 14 days of the cause of action.
In the instant case, Justice Aboki held that the case was filed more than 32 clear days after the primaries, which took place on October 4, thereby rendering the suit a mere academic exercise. He said that the failure of Ogara to file his suit within 14 days offended section 285, removed jurisdiction from the Federal High Court and made the case to be statute-barred.
The appeal court also said that “whatever right the respondent may have in his suit has been extinguished by law,” and, therefore, has no right to benefit any longer from the case.
The court set aside the judgement of the federal high court, which ordered INEC to remove and expunge Eze’s name from its list of candidates for the governorship election in Enugu State.
In a related development, the Court of Appeal sitting in Jalingo, Taraba State, yesterday, ordered a stay of execution of the judgement of the Federal High Court, Jalingo, which disqualified the governorship candidate of the APC, Alh Sani Abubakar Danladi, from contesting in tomorrow’s governorship election in the state.
The presiding judge, Justice Chidi Nwaoma Uwa, ruled in favour of the APC and Sani Abubakar Danladi on the motion ex parte and order of interim injunction filed by counsel demanding the stay of execution of the judgement delivered by the Federal High Court, Jalingo, and to restrain the respondents from executing the judgement and orders of the court, pending the determination of motion on notice filed by the applicants.
The court said, “The parties are to maintain the status quo ante bellum and are to stay action and or steps towards the execution of the judgement of the federal high court. An interim order of injunction is hereby ordered restraining the first, second, third, fourth and fifth respondents from taking any steps towards the execution of the said judgement.”
Counsel to the APC, Chia Elijah, who briefed journalists after the ruling, said that it became pertinent for the judgement of the federal high court to be stayed pending the outcome of the appeal, so that the candidate would not be denied the right to participate at the election.
“In view of the proximity of the order of the Federal High Court to the conduct of the governorship election in the state, and the fact that the APC candidate has the right of appeal against that judgement and has filed a notice of appeal, if the order is not stayed and the election is conducted, he would have suffered injury in the sense that his right to contest at the election would have been denied, and the outcome of the appeal would have been rendered nugatory, like medicine after death. As such, the appeal court has ordered that the status quo be maintained, pending the outcome of the appeal. The implication is that all the orders of the Federal High Court are stayed pending the ruling of the appeal.”
Reacting to the order, the state chairman of the party, Mr. Ibrahim Tukur El-Sudi, hailed the appeal court for “allowing justice to prevail” and urged the people to come out massively and ensure that they “vote for the candidates of the APC on Saturday to herald a new era of positive change in the state.”
Justice Stephen Pam of the Federal High Court, Jalingo, on Wednesday, ruled on the case of age falsification brought against Sani Abubakar Danladi by Usman Udi and three others, saying Danladi had filed a different date of birth to the third defendant, the INEC from the one on his West African Examination Council certificate (WAEC), and so declared the information he supplied to the INEC as false, and disqualified him from contesting the governorship election in the state.