From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja division of the Federal High Court has rejected an ex-parte application filed by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, to restrain the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, from disqualifying him from contesting the 2023 presidential election.
Emefiele had prayed the court, through his counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), for an order of status quo ante bellum to be made against INEC and AGF so that he would not be made to resign from office until 30 days to the general election.
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It is contention that not being a political appointee but a public servant, he could not be compelled to resign in line with section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
Moving his motion exparte, Ozekhome prayed the court to invoke section 318 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, and bar the defendants from asking his client to vacate office until 30 days to the Presidential election.
However, in a ruling, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, declined to accede to the prayers, even as he directed the plaintiff to go and put the defendants (INEC and AGF) on notice and also serve them with all the relevant court processes in the matter.
Justice Mohammed ordered the defendants to appear before him on May 12 and show cause why the request should not be granted
In a suit marked FHC/ABJ/ CS/610/2022, Emefiele alleged attempt by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, to disqualify him from the 2023 presidential election.
Among other reliefs, he specifically prayed the court to declare that he can “validly participate in the primary election of any political party and is entitled to vote and be voted for as candidate of any political party of his choice, for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for the election to the office of President or any other office under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended”.
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He equally wants the court to issue an order, “stopping the defendants (INEC and the AGF), from stopping or prejudicing the Plaintiff from participating, voting or being voted for at the congress or convention of any political party of his choice, for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for the election to the office of President or any other office under the Constitution”.
In a a supporting affidavit that was deposed to by one Maliki Sylvanus, Emiefele, told the court that he is aspiring to seek election to the office of the president of Nigeria and participate as a candidate in the upcoming 2023 presidential elections.
Among other things, he asked the court to determine the following questions: “Whether the provisions of section 84(12) of the Electoral Act, 2022, which are inconsistent with the provisions of section 137(1) (G) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) which have been declared so by a court of competent jurisdiction, can be relied upon by the defendants to disqualify the plaintiff from contesting election to the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or from contesting or participating in the parties’ primaries or other convention or congress for the purpose of election to the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, scheduled for 25th February, 2023.
“Whether by provisions of section 84(3) of the Electoral Act, 2022, “a political party can by its constitution, guidelines or rules, impose any nomination qualification or disqualification criteria measure, conditions on any aspirant or candidate including the Plaintiff herein, in its primaries or constitution, guidelines or rules for nomination of its candidates for election besides those criteria as prescribed under section 65, 66, 1067, 107, 131, 137, 177 and 187 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)”.
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As well as; “Whether by the combined effect of the provisions of section 84(3) of the Electoral Act, 2022, and section 137(1) (g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) which require a public officer to resign, withdraw or retire from his employment at least 30 days before the date of the presidential election, the plaintiff can be mandated and/or compelled to resign, withdraw or retire his position as the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria earlier than 30 days to the political party primary or presidential election as prescribed by section 137 (10 (g) Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, which presidential election is scheduled to take place about February 2023, while the primaries are fixed for 30th May and 1st June, 2022”.
The plaintiff further wants the court to determined whether by provision of section 137(I) (g) and 318of the 1999 Constitution, he could be regarded as a political appointee within the meaning and intendment of section 84(12) of the Electoral Act, 2022.