The Federal High Court sitting, in Lagos State, on Wednesday, dismissed a suit filed by People’s Democratic Party (PDP), against the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidates for the Lagos State House of Assembly and gubernatorial candidate, Governor Olusola Sanwo-Olu.
This was in the Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/ 1979/ 2022 against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The case was heared by Justice P.O. Lifu.
The suit, which was filed on the 17th of October, 2022, prayed the Court for reliefs with the main reliefs as follows:
- A DECLARATION that upon proper construction and interpretation of the combined provisions of sections 29 and 30(1) of the Electoral Act 2022, it is mandatory for a political party such as the 2nd Defendant to submit the Nomination Forms of candidates it proposes to sponsor for elections to the 1st Defendant not later than 180 days to the conduct of such elections.
- A DECLARATION that the 2nd_ 43rd Defendants stand disqualified for failing to submit the Nomination Forms of the 3rd-43rd Defendants to the 1st Defendant not later than 180 days to the elections into the office of the Governor of Lagos State and member of the state House of Assembly of Lagos State scheduled to hold on March 11th, 2023. A DECLARATION that upon a proper interpretation of Sections 106(d), 177(c) and 221 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as Amended), section 29, 30(1) and 84(13) of the Electoral Act, 2022 and other enabling laws in that behalf, the 1st defendant is NOT permitted by law to all the 2nd Defendant to sponsor the 3rd-43rd Defendants for the Governorship and State House of Assembly Elections into the office of the Governor of Lagos State and member, State House of Assembly of Lagos State; having contravened the revered and mandatory provisions of Section 29 and 30(1) of the Electoral Act. AN ORDER SETTING ASIDE OR NULLYFYING forthwith the purported sponsorship and/or nomination of the 3rd-43rd Defendants by the 2nd Defendant to the 1st Defendant in respect of the forthcoming Governorship and State House of Assembly Elections in Lagos State.
- AN ORDER OF INJUNCTION restraining the 2nd -43rd Defendants either by herself, agents, privies, surrogates or any other person(s) whosoever from according recognition to the 2nd-43rd Defendants or in any manner whatsoever featuring or parading the 2nd – 43rd Defendants as a political party and candidate respectively in the forthcoming Governship and State House of Assembly Elections in Lagos State.
- AN ORDER OF INJUNCTION restraining the 2nd – 43rd Defendants either by themselves, agents, privies, surrogates or any other person(s) whosoever from parading themselves as a political party and candidates respectively to contest the forthcoming Governorship and State House of Assembly Elections in Lagos State.
In defense of the suit, the Law office of Babatunde Ogala (SAN) & Co, on behalf of All Progressives Congress candidates of the House of Assembly, Lagos State filed its’ Memorandum of Conditional Appearance, a Notice of Preliminary Objection and a Counter-Affidavit with Written Address. The Preliminary objection was premised on the following grounds:
- That the Plaintiffs lacked the Locus standi to institute and maintain the suit against the 4th – 43rd Defendants not being Aspirants in the Primaries election of the 2nd Defendant.
- The action was barred by statute of Limitation.
- The suit did not disclose any cause of action as the Plaintiff failed to establish her interest in the suit.
- The Issue of nomination or sponsorship of a candidate is a sole prerogative and domestic affairs of a political party.
- And the suit constituted an abuse of Court Process.
The matter came up 30th January, 2023 for further directives, the Plaintiff Counsel requested for a further date so as to enable them file a response to the Preliminary Objection of the 4th – 43rd Defendants. Learned Silk, Babatunde Ogala SAN, Principal of the law firm Babatunde Ogala SAN & Co representing the APC candidates of the House of Assembly, Lagos State, informed the court that service of the preliminary objection, Counter Affidavit and Written Address on the Plaintiff Counsel was a problem as the Plaintiff’s Counsel address on the Originating Process is wrong, he had to resort to e-service via E-mail. He further submitted that the suit ought to be struck out as the Plaintiff is not diligent in the prosecution of the suit.
The Court addressed the issues of incompetency of the Plaintiff counsel and also agreed that the Plaintiff is not diligent in the prosecution of the suit. The suit was adjourned to 8th February, 2023 for hearing of the Preliminary Objections and the Originating process with the directive that the Plaintiff has 48 hours to respond to the Preliminary Objection and the Defendants subsequently have 48 hours to reply same.
On 8th February, 2023, when the matter came up for hearing, Babatunde Ogala, SAN informed the court that the Plaintiff failed to serve the Defendants their response to the Preliminary Objections. He further informed the Court since the Plaintiff did not respond to their Preliminary Objection, the suit and Preliminary Objection are ripe for hearing and he’s ready to move the Preliminary Objection, after which the Plaintiff Counsel can move their Originating Process.
The Plaintiff Counsel in response informed the Court that they had prepared and served the Defendants their response however, they sought to withdraw the suit due to an intervening circumstance which necessitated for them to withdraw the suit.
Babatunde Ogala, SAN objected to the withdrawal of the suit, he prayed the court to dismiss the suit outrightly. He sought the guidance of the Honourable Court to find out if the Plaintiff actually filed their responses as the Defendants have not been served with any process and in the likely event it turned out the Plaintiff counsel didn’t file their response, he urged the Court to sanction the Plaintiff Counsel. He submitted that issues have been joined as the 4th-43rd Defendants have already filed a Counter Affidavit and Written Address in opposition to the Originating Summons of the Plaintiff and a Notice of Preliminary Objection challenging the competency of the suit and going by Order 50 Rule 2 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2019, the Plaintiff counsel ought to have filed their Notice of Withdrawal within 14days. He urged the Honourable Court to dismiss the suit.
The trial judge in delivering his judgment agreed with the submissions of the Learned Silk, 1st, 2nd and 3rd Defendants counsel since issues have been joined.
The suit was, therefore, dismissed.