The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has been asked to disqualify the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Ahmed Usman Ododo, from contesting the forthcoming governorship election in Kogi State.
The request by an aggrieved governorship aspirant under the platform of the APC was hinged on the grounds that, Ododo is not qualified to fly the flag of the APC in the November 11, 2023 governorship election, having failed to resign his employment with the Kogi State public service before contesting the governorship primary, which he won.
The plaintiff, Abubakar Achimugu, in the suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/584/2023, claims that Ododo breached Section 182 of the Constitution, Section 84 of the Electoral Act, 2022, and Article 7 of the APC’s Constitution in participating in the April 14 governorship primary of the APC in the state.
Achimugu, in the suit dated April 28, and filed on his behalf by his lawyer, Mr Josiah Daniel-Ebune, is claiming that Ododo’s failure to resign his appointment with the Kogi State Government, 30 days to the primary, made him ineligible for the November 11, governorship election.
The APC, Ododo, the deputy governorship candidate, Salami Momodu Deedat, and the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC) are listed as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th respondents, respectively.
Amongst the issues brought before the court for determination is whether the 2nd defendant is eligible to participate in the forthcoming governorship election slated for November 11, 2023, in view of the fact that both at the time of submission of nomination and expression of interest forms and the conduct and declaration of primary election results, Ododo and Deedat remained civil/ public servants and employees of Kogi State Government, contrary to the provisions of Section 182 (2), Section 84 (10) and (11) of the Electoral Act, 2022 Guidelines for the nomination of candidates.
If the answer is in the affirmative, the plaintiff wants the court to, amongst other relief, declare that the 2nd and 3rd defendants are not qualified or eligible to have participated in the primary election being persons both employed in public service of Kogi State, they failed and neglected to resign, withdraw or retire from employment at least 30 days to the April 14, 2023, when the primary election was conducted.
They are also asking the court to declare that the 2nd and 3rd defendants, at the time of the concluded primary election of April 14, 2023, and April 15, when results were announced, were not qualified or eligible, not validly nominated, and the purported nomination is unconstitutional, not eligible to bear the flag of the APC, as its governorship candidate for Kogi State governorship election slated for November 11, 2023.
“That the 2nd defendant is not eligible or qualified to contest for the office of Kogi State Governor, in the November 11, poll, being a person employed in the public service of Kogi State and failed to resign 30 days to the primary election”.
Subsequently, they prayed the court to make an order nullifying and setting aside the screening and participation of the second and third defendants in the April 14 gubernatorial primary election for the nomination of the candidate of APC, having been in breach of Section 182 of the Constitution and Section 84 of the Electoral Act, 2022 and Article 7 of the APC Constitution.
Another order disqualifying the 2nd defendant from contesting the office of Kogi State governor on November 11, 2023
“An order compelling the 4th defendant to remove the name of the 2nd defendant from the list of candidates vying for the governorship seat of Kogi State and substituting same with the name of the plaintiff.
“An order directing the 1st defendant to recognize and forward the name of the plaintiff to the 4th defendant as APC’s valid and authentic gubernatorial candidate for the governorship election in Kogi State.
“An order of perpetual injunction restraining 2nd defendant from parading himself as the gubernatorial candidate of the APC”.
The plaintiff also wants another order restraining APC and INEC from dealing with Ododo as the governorship candidate of the APC and that in the event Ododo is declared winner of November 11, 2023, guber election before the case is fully determined, the certificate of return issued to him by INEC should be withdrawn.
When the matter came up on Tuesday, before Justice Obiora Egwatu, the plaintiff’s counsel, Daniel-Ebune, informed the court of an application dated and filed May 12, seeking leave of the Court to amend the Originating Summons.
The request, which was not opposed by counsel representing the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd defendants, was granted.
While the first defendant, APC, was represented by Mr Abdulwahab Mohammed (SAN), Ododo and Deedat were represented by M. Y. Abdullahi (SAN).
However, INEC was not represented, despite being served with the court processes.
Subsequently, Justice Egwatu adjourned till June 14 for a hearing just as he ordered the plaintiff to serve INEC with the hearing notice.