By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja.
A Federal High Court in Abuja has sacked Musa Salihu Mubarak as the gubernatorial candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party NNPP over unlawful substitution.
Justice James Kolawole Omotosho removed Mubarak from the November 11 governorship race on the ground that his name was fraudulently submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, ordeing that Hon Hassan Abdullahi be restored as the party’s flagbearer having lawfully won the primary election of the party conducted on April 16, 2023.
in another decision at the Federal High Court in Abuja, a judge dismissed a case filed by Abubakar Achimugu against the All Progressives Congress APC, its governorship candidate in Kogi State, Usman Ododo, Ozigi Deedat and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for lacking in merit.
Justice Obiora Egwuatu who delivered the judgment in the suit marked “FHC/CS/585/2023: Achimugu v. APC & 3 Ors”, said the cause of action, which arose on April 14, 2023, was not statute barred, but that the Plaintiff’s case was bereft of merit.
In the NNPP case, Justice Omotoso found as a fact that Abdullahi won the nomination election with 303 votes while Mubarak came second with only 10 votes.
In the judgment, the court held that submission of Mubarak’s name over and above that of Abdullahi was the highest point of injustice and a glaring fraud that must not be allowed to stand.
The Judge said that the submission of Mubarak’s name who scored only 10 votes to INEC and publishing same by the Electoral body is unlawful, illegal, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.
Justice Omotoso found that the plaintiff’s name was submitted to INEC along with that of Mubarak on April 28 while that of Mubarak was fraudulently recognized.
The Judge held that since Abdullahi won the popular and undisputed primary election and his name submitted, only death or voluntary withdrawal can remove same from the published names of the Gubernatorial candidates.
The Court invoked section 84 of the Electoral Act 2022 and declared the submission, recognition and publishing of name of Mubarak as unlawful acts.
While ordering immediate publication of the name of the plaintiff, Justice Omotosho issued an order of perpetual injunction against NNPP, INEC and their agents from further depriving the plaintiff the fruits of his success at the primary election of the NNPP.
On the APC case, Achimugu, who was a governorship aspirant, had sought the disqualification of Ododo and Ozigi Deedat, who came 1st and second during the primary election which held on 14th April 2023, saying that, being persons employed in the Public Service of the Kogi State Government, they did not resign, withdraw or retire before the conduct of the primary election.
Justice Egwuatu, however, held that the 2nd and 3rd defendants duly resigned from their positions in government, even over a period of 30 days before the date of the primaries, hence they were qualified to participate in the primary election.
He said, “Did the 2nd and 3rd Defendants resign as Political Office Holders?
“I have looked at the resignation letters, addressed to the Governor of Kogi State. They were duly received on the 8th of March 2023. The resignation letters became effective from the date of receipt of the letter.”
He noted that the Claimant’s argument that the letters of resignation were not with the APC and INEC was not supported by any law as there was no requirement that same be submitted to INEC or the APC, who are not their employers.
Justice Egwuatu also held that the 30 days required for the resignation of a public servant contained in the Constitution was 30 days before the General Election, not a party’s primary election.
Delivering his judgment, he said, “The election which held on 14th February 2023 was not a general election but a party primary.”
He held that the “the 2nd and 3rd Defendants duly resigned, hence they are qualified to participate in the primary election.”
The suit was therefore dismissed for lacking in merit.
Plaintiff (Achimugu) was represented by Josiah O. Daniel-Ebune, APC by Abdulwahab Muhammed SAN; Ododo, by M.Y. Abdullahi SAN, and INEC, by AA Adeniyi SAN.