On Wednesday, the governor-elect of Anambra State, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, received some relief when the Federal High Court in Abuja rejected to annul his election.
A challenge seeking to nullify Soludo’s election on the grounds that he provided fraudulent information to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, was dismissed by the court, which was presided over by Justice Taiwo Taiwo.
Plaintiffs Adindu Valentine and Egwudike Chukwuebuka claimed in their FHC/ABJ/CS/711/2021 lawsuit that Soludo misrepresented in the affidavit (Form EC9) he submitted to INEC.
They alleged that in the affidavit attached to his nomination form, Soludo stated that he was running for the Aguata 2 Constituency seat when he was actually running for governor.
They also told the court that an affidavit presented to INEC by Soludo’s running mate and Deputy Governor-elect, Onyeka Ibezim, contained incorrect information because he said that he was standing for the Awka 2 Constituency seat.
The INEC, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Soludo, and the Deputy Governor-elect, Ibezim, were named as defendants in the complaint.
Plaintiffs’ lawyers, A. O. Ijeri and Kelvin Okoko stated that Soludo violated existing legal restrictions by indicating the wrong seat on the form and that he should be disqualified.
“A state is a constituency for governorship elections under the constitution, but in this case, the third defendant (Soludo) named Aguata 2 as the constituency he is contesting.”
“The date of the occurrence of the event, a decision or action complained about in the suit by the Plaintiff, is decided by the provision of Section 285(9) of the Constitution in a pre-election affair.”
“And in the instant litigation, the Plaintiffs’ cause of action arose on July 6, 2021, when the political party (the 2nd Defendant) submitted the 3rd Defendant’s (Soludo’s) Form EC9,” they stated.
Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, counsel for APGA and Soludo, questioned the court’s power to hear the case, which he claimed was statute-barred.
Aside from claiming that the lawsuit was submitted outside of the Constitution’s 14-day deadline, Ikpeazu also claimed that an affidavit error could not be used to disqualify a candidate from an election.
He maintained that the Plaintiffs’ alleged inaccurate information was not one of the reasons for a candidate’s disqualification listed in the 1999 Constitution.
“False information is a crime, as defined by Section 31 of the Electoral Act. “Section 31 deals with a premeditated attempt to steal a match and falsify, not with an error,” he continued.
INEC, through its counsel, Bashir Abubakar, said it will leave the matter to the court’s discretion.
Meanwhile, while Justice Taiwo dismissed the preliminary objection challenging the suit’s competency and the court’s authority to hear it, he found that the Plaintiffs failed to prove that they had a plausible cause of action in his decision on Wednesday.
The Plaintiffs failed to persuade the court how the purported misleading information provided by Soludo and Ibezim to INEC misled them, according to Justice Taiwo.
Because the Plaintiffs’ complaint was likewise criminal in nature, the court determined that it needed to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
The claim was filed in bad faith, according to the court, and is an example of lawsuits that are not targeted at improving the country’s democratic principles.
“I’m still trying to figure out why this lawsuit was filed in the first place.” “I say this because I don’t believe this move is appropriate,” Justice Taiwo continued.
As a result, the court awarded the APGA, Soludo, and Ibezim N2 million in costs against the Plaintiffs.