By Yinka Adetula
Published by uncovered.ng
Mr Francis Chima, the People’s Democratic party (PDP) candidate representing (Ajeromi/Ifelodun Federal constituency), Lagos, has asked a Lagos Federal High Court to dismiss suit filed by All Progressive Congress (APC), seeking his disqualification in the 2023 general election.
APC and his candidate, Mr Paul Kalejaiye, who was also seeking election into the same seat, have dragged Chima before the court challenging his emergency as the PDP’s candidate, in the coming general election, on the ground that the party’s primary election, which produced him, was not in conformity with Section 84 (13) of the new electoral Act.
APC and Kalejaiye in their suit marked FHC/L/CS/1316/2022, filed, by their counsel, Mr Lawal Pedro (SAN) listed Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and PDP as Chima’s co-respondents.
Lawal (SAN) while moving his clients’ motion on Wednesday, urged the court for the following reliefs; “a declaration that by virtue of the provision of Section 84 (1) of the Electoral Act 2022, the second respondent (PDP), when seeking to nominate a candidate to contest against the applicants in the 2023 general election for the Ajeromi Ifelodun Federal Constituency of Lagos State seat in the National Assembly, had an obligation to hold primary election for aspirants from its party to elect a candidate.
“A declaration that by virtue of the provisions of section 84 (13) of the Electoral Act 2022, the nomination of the third respondent (Chima) as a candidate of the second respondent (PDP) to contest against the applicants in the 2023 general election for the Ajeromi Ifelodun Federal Constituency of Lagos State seat in the National Assembly is null and void, for failure of the second respondent to comply with the provisions of Sub Section 1 of Section 84 of the Act to conduct primary election for his nomination as a candidate
“A declaration that the second respondent has no valid candidate to contest against the applicants the 2023 general election for the Ajeromi Ifelodun Federal Constituency Lagos State seat in the National Assembly.
“A declaration that the third respondent (Chima) is not entitled and has no right to contest against the applicants in the 2023 general election for the Ajeromi Ifelodun Federal Constituency Lagos State seat in the National Assembly.
And a declaration that by virtue of the provisions of section 84(13) of the Electoral Act 2022, the first respondent (INEC) had a public duty and obligation not to include the name of the third respondent as a candidate of the second respondent to contest against the applicants the 2023 general election for the Ajeromi Ifelodun Federal Constituency of Lagos State seat in the National Assembly.
“A order of perpetual injunction restraining the first respondent, its servants, agents and howsoever from recognizing or including the name of the third respondent as a candidate to contest against the applicants in the 2023 general election for the Ajeromi Ifelodun Federal Constituency of Lagos State seat in the National Assembly.”
However, the PDP candidate in his preliminary objections to the suit, filed and argued by his team of lawyers led by Mr Emeka Ozoani and Prof. Joseph Abugu, both SANs, asked the court to dismiss the suit, for been frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of Court process.
He stated that the same had been caught by the limitation of time within which to file Pre-election matters under section 285(9) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended.
The two senior lawyers, apart from asking the court to dismiss the suit having been caught by statute of limitation, also asked the court and to decline jurisdiction in entertaining it and to award a substantial cost of N10 million, against the APC and Kalejaiye.
The PDP candidate in his affidavit in support of the preliminary objections stated that he was an aspirant in the INEC’s Primary elections scheduled for May, 23 and 24, 2022 in the Federal Constituencies in Lagos State to select and nominate 1st Defendant’s candidate for the Ajeromi/Ifelodun Federal Constituency of Lagos State into the Federal House of Representatives Elections in 2023.
He stated that upon his expression of interest to serve in the Federal House of Representations, he purchased, filled and submitted the requsite Expression of Interest Form as well as the Nomination Form issued by the INEC for the Ajeromi/ Ifelodun Federal Constituency.
He said he was duly screened by a Panel constituted by the INEC and issued a Certificate of Provisional Clearance to contest in the primaries of the INEC, for the purpose of selecting the candidate for the Ajeromi/Ifelodun Federal Constituency.
He stated that he duly completed and submitted to the first defendant, INEC Form EC 13D: Nomination Form for Member, House of Representatives. And that INEC scheduled three days: May 22, 23 and 24, 2022 for the conduct of all its Primaries into the Federal Constituencies in Lagos State.
He stated that the said Primary election was supervised and closely monitored by the INEC’s National, State and Local Government officers, representatives of the Nigerian Police, Department of State Security and members of the Press.
“The said Primary election was held and conducted in a peaceful and serene environment devoid of any scintilla of rancor, conflict or violence.
“It was accordingly adjudged by all party faithfuls, and the delegates to be the fairest and freest primary elections in Ajeromi/Ifelodun Federal constituency of Lagos state in recent times,” he said
In a 36 paragraph affidavit deposed to by Chima, the third respondent himself, listed other candidates who participated in the primary as; Dr Oladipupo Diriwari, Hon. Rita Orji and Mrs Ezeude Emilia.
He averred that Orji voluntary withdrew from the Primaries but nonetheless received some votes from the delegates.
He noted that even though the plaintiff’s name was in the ballot for the Primaries, she had voluntarily withdrawn and was not present at the Primaries even though her agents attended.
He stated that upon the count of recorded votes, he won the election with 22 Votes as opposed to his three contenders who scored as follows: Dr Diriwari (3 votes); Hon. Rita Orji (4 votes) and Mrs. Ezeude (3 votes).
Whilst one (1) vote was voided. The Result of the election as recorded in the 1st Defendant’s Result Sheet with No. 0410 is attached and marked Exhibit EE1.
“I also rely on Certified True Copies of the INEC Monitors Checklist for the Primaries as well as the Certified True Copy of the PDP Summary of Results for the Primaries in the Constituency, both here attached as Exhibits EE2 and EE3. ”
Ozoani in his arguments before the court, submitted that his client was duly declared the winner of the Primaries held on May 23, 2022 by the INEC’s national officers, with the attestation of the PDP’s officers at the State and Local Government Area levels.
He said, sequel to his victory, the result of the primaries with his name as duly elected candidate was forwarded by the INEC to the PDP. He added that the submission of his name by the PDP to the INEC was not an error but the result of a fairly won contest whereas the Plaintiff lost.
“The PDP rightfully submitted his name and particulars to the INEC as the lawful winner of the Primaries of the PDP held on May 23, 2022 into the Ajeromi/Ifelodun Federal Constituency of Lagos State. ”
He further submitted that the only valid and subsisting Primaries of the PDP in Ajeromi/Ifelodun Federal Constituency was the one held on May 23, 2022 wherein the third defendant won with an overwhelming majority, hence the INEC and PDP duly accepted him as the candidate elected to contest the federal elections in 2023 from the Ajeromi/Ifelodun Federal Constituency.
“The fist defendant (INEC) has duly issued a Certificate of Return declaring him as the flag bearer of the PDP in the 2023 general elections for Ajeromi/Ifelodun Federal Constituency of Lagos.”
H stated that several weeks after the Primaries held, which was attended, monitored and supervised by relevant authorized officials of both the first and second defendants including security officials in compliance with the electoral law and party guidelines, the Plaintiff/ Respondent filed this action seeking several reliefs by way of Originating Summons.
He added that there are two other sister actions filed by other defeated contestants presently pending in Suit No: FHC/L/CS/1202/2022 and SUIT NO: FHC/L/CS/1176/2022, in the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court being the forum where the 1st defendant’s Primary election
He stated that the applicants’ suit was filed several weeks after the primaries was held, and sought a declaration that the Primaries of the PDP was never held.
After listening to arguments and submission of counsel to parties, Justice Daniel Osiagor fixed September 14 for judgment.