S'Court dismisses ex-Minister's suit against Tinubu - NEWS FRONTIER DAILY


Thursday, March 30, 2023

S'Court dismisses ex-Minister's suit against Tinubu

The Supreme Court has dismissed a suit filed by the immediate past Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, to invalidate the victory of the President-elect, Bola Tinubu.

Nwajiuba had applied for an order to nullify the nomination of Tinubu as candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, for the presidential election that held on February 25.

He contended that the primary election that produced Tinubu was not only marred by manifest irregularities, but conducted in breach of both the 1999 Constitution, as amended, and the Electoral Act.

Aside from Tinubu, the APC and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, were cited as respondents in the appeal.

However, at the resumed proceedings on the matter, the Appellant, through his team of lawyers led by Chief Awa Kalu, SAN, applied to withdraw the appeal. 

The withdrawal application was not opposed by the respondents, consequently, a five-member panel of the apex court, in a unanimous decision, dismissed the suit.

Justice Zainab Abubakar of the Federal High Court in Abuja had in a judgement she delivered on December 23, 2022, held that the court lacked the requisite jurisdiction to entertain issues Nwajiuba raised against Tinubu.

Justice Abubakar held that the suit, which was filed outside the 14 days allowed by Section 285(9) of the Constitution, had become statute-barred.

She, therefore, declined to grant any of the reliefs the plaintiff sought against the defendants.

Likewise, the Court of Appeal in Abuja, in its own judgement on February 24, affirmed the verdict of the trial court.

Nwajiuba, who is a chieftain of the APC and one of the aspirants that paid a whopping N100million to obtain its presidential form, had in his substantive suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1114/2022, prayed the court to void the nomination of Tinubu as flag-bearer of the party for the impending election.

It will be recalled that Nwajiuba, who was the first Minister in the cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari that resigned from office to further his political ambition, was conspicuously absent on the day the APC held its presidential primary election in Abuja. 

Even though his name was mentioned severally as he was called to mount the podium to address the delegates like other aspirants did, he was nowhere to be seen.

He subsequently approached the court to challenge Tinubu's eligibility to contest the presidential election with the ticket of the ruling APC.

He had in his first suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/942/2022, which was dismissed by trial Justice Inyang Ekwo on December 15, 2022, accused Tinubu of acting in breach of the Electoral Act.

In the suit he filed alongside a non governmental organization under the aegis of the Incorporated Trustees of Rights for All International, Nwajiuba, alleged that the primary election that produced Tinubu was fraught with massive vote buying, insisting that majority of the delegates were bought over with dollars.

To strengthen his allegation, the ex-Minister who polled only one vote at the primary election that held on June 8, included in his proof of evidence, a video recording showing the immediate past Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, decrying that delegates at the APC primary sold their votes.

The plaintiffs further queried Tinubu's source of income and his educational qualifications.

They urged the court to declare that the 3rd defendant (Tinubu), "who had previously sworn an affidavit  in the INEC nomination form  declaring that he lost his primary and secondary school  documents  and benefitted therefrom, cannot in a later affidavit deny and abandon   same  facts deposed in the previous affidavit and thus  falsely  contradicting his academic qualifications".

The plaintiffs attached to the suit, copies of affidavits Tinubu deposed to while he was the governorship candidate of the Alliance for Democracy, AD, in Lagos state.

"That the entire circumstances surrounding the two depositions of the 3rd defendant points to the fact that they are false and misleading and cannot be relied upon. 

"That the possession of a higher degree does not  substitute the minimum requirement of law, where the  minimum academic requirement  is manifestly absent by an avowed fact.

"That  the possession of a higher educational qualification  such as first degree or masters degree are predicated on the minimum educational qualification as provided in the Constitution", plaintiffs averred.

Among other things, the plaintiffs, prayed the court to determine; "Whether the All Progressives Congress is exempted from compliance with section 90(3) of the Electoral Act 2022, having presented  the 3rd defendant (Tinubu) as its presidential candidate to the 6th defendant (INEC) and the 6th defendant accepted and  published same, being the name of a person whose source of N100m contribution fee for the nomination form and expression of interest form was not verified.

"Whether the constitutional provision prescribing the academic qualification of candidates and prescribing minimum qualification of school certificate or its equivalent has been complied with by the 3rd defendant  who on oath,  have admitted  that he does not possess such minimum qualification  prescribed  in the  1999 Constitution of Nigeria".

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