Court of Appeal Dismisses Suit Challenging Prince Dapo Abiodun’s Qualification to contest the Governorship Election in Ogun State

The Court of Appeal, Abuja Judicial Division today, dismissed the appeal of one Abdul-Rafiu Adesina Baruwa against the judgment of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court (Coram Adeniyi J.) which dismissed his claims for the disqualification of Prince Adedapo Abiodun as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress for the Ogun State Governorship election held on 9th March, 2019 on the ground that the Form CF001 (affidavit of personal particulars) submitted by Prince Adedapo Abiodun to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) contained false information.

At the trial court, Prince Adedapo Abiodun’s counsel, Kehinde Ogunwumiju, SAN had objected to the jurisdiction of the Court to entertain the suit on several grounds, principal of which was that, in view of the provisions of Section 285 of the 4th Alteration to the Constitution which limited the time frame for filing all ‘’pre-election matters’’ to 14 days after which the act or decision complained against occurred, the suit was statute barred having been filed on the 13th of December, 2018 when the Form CF001 was submitted by Prince Dapo Abiodun to INEC since the 25th of October, 2018. In essence, the suit was filed some 37 days after the act/decision (submission of Form CF001) complained against occurred.

The FCT High Court dismissed this objection on the footing that a ‘’pre election’’ matter as defined under Section 285 of the 4th Alteration to the Constitution is a matter commenced by an aspirant or a political party. Hence, as the Claimant in this suit (Appellant at the Court of Appeal) was neither an aspirant nor a political party, this suit cannot be considered a ‘’pre-election matter’’ within the context of Section 285 of the 4th Alteration to the Constitution. Consequently, the FCT High Court found that the 14 days time frame for filing ‘’pre election matters’’ under 285 of the 4th Alteration to the Constitution is inapplicable to this suit.

Thereafter, the FCT High Court delved into the merits of the case, found the arguments of Damien Dodo, SAN and Kehinde Ogunwumiju, SAN, counsel to the 1st and 2nd Defendants persuasive and dismissed the Appellants suit in its entirety.

Dissatisfied with the decision of the FCT High Court dismissing his case, the Appellant, Mr. Baruwa, represented by Kanu Agabi, SAN appealed to the Court of Appeal. Mr. Kehinde Ogunwumiju, SAN also on behalf of Prince Dapo Abiodun filed a cross-appeal against the decision of the lower court that the lower court ought to have applied the provisions of 285 of the 4th Alteration to the Constitution to the suit an found that the suit was statute barred having being filed outside the prescribed period of 14 days after the act or decision complained against occurred.

The Learned Silk relied on the recent decision of the Court of Appeal in Itanyi & Anor. v. Bagudu & Ors delivered on 17th December 2018 to buttress his position. Mr. Damien Dodo, SAN who represented the APC, also cross-appealed on the basis that the court lacked territorial jurisdiction to determine the suit.

The appeal with No. CA/A/269/2019 was heard by Honourable Justices Abubakar Datti Yahya, Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson and M.B Idris who delivered the lead judgment.

In its judgment, the Court of Appeal agreed with the arguments of Mr. Ogunwumiju SAN on the point that the lower court ought to have applied the provisions of 285 of the 4th Alteration to the Constitution to the suit and found that the suit was statute barred having being filed outside the prescribed period of 14 days after the act or decision complained against occurred.

The Court of Appeal relied on its recent decision in Itanyi & Anor. v. Bagudu & Ors delivered on 17th December 2018 in its judgment. The Court of Appeal also agreed with the submissions of Mr. Damien Dodo, SAN that the lower court lacked territorial jurisdiction to determine the suit.
Consequently, the Court of Appeal allowed the cross-appeals and found that the lower court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the suit. The Court of Appeal also dismissed the main appeal filed by the Appellant as same was unmeritorious.

This decision has settled the position of the law that the 4th Alteration Act is applicable to all pre-election matters and not just matters filed by an aspirant at a primary election or a political party.

 

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