George Kajo, Makurdi
Benue Governorship candidate on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, Reverend Father Hyacinth Alia is to know his fate as a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, has fixed November 17, 2022, to deliver judgment in the suit filed by Chief Mike Kaase Aondoakaa (SAN), challenging the gubernatorial primary election in Benue State.
The presiding Judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed fixed the date, Wednesday after counsel for the parties adopted their processes in the matter as Michael Aondoakaa (SAN),a chieftain of the APC and former Attorney General and Minister of Justice filed the matter through his legal team, led by Chiesonu Okpoko (SAN).
The former AGF listed the APC, Hyacinth Alia and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as first, second and third defendants respectively.
Aondoakaa, an aspirant in the Benue APC governorship primary, prayed the court to nullify the gubernatorial primary election on the grounds that the APC violated its own constitution as provided under Articles 20.3 and 20.4 (as amended 2022), provisions of Sections 82 (1) and 84 (4) of the Electoral Act, 2022, INEC regulations and guidelines on conduct of primary elections as well as the relevant sections of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
Along with the originating summons, the former AGF filed an affidavit of 55- paragraphs which he personally deposed to and tendered 22 exhibits marked Exhibit A-X.
In Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/877/2022, Aondoakaa, SAN, alleged that the APC failed to comply with the mandatory provisions of Sections 82 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2022 which mandates every registered Political Party to give INEC at least 21 days notice of any convention, congress, conference or meeting convened for the purposes of nominating candidates for elective offices amongst others as the Notice for the conduct of the alleged Governorship Primaries of May 26, 2022 was not given to him as an aspirant and INEC as an umpire.
He submitted that in the governorship primary election result sheet for the alleged election downloaded online, the purported primaries were conducted on May 27, 2022, as against the scheduled date of May 26, 2022; arguing that the rescheduling of the gubernatorial primary was done arbitrarily without notice to INEC as it is compulsory under Regulation 17 (c) which provides that:
“Rescheduling of any scheduled primary shall be by a written communication to the Commission not later than seven (7) days to the new date, clearly stating the reasons for rescheduling, the new date and the venues.
The former AGF alleged that APC failed to comply with the mandatory seven days’ notice for rescheduling of a primary election and also failed to display the register of eligible voters which is required to be displayed at least 21 days to the date of election.
He therefore urged the court to nullify the gubernatorial primary election of the APC in Benue State in line with Section 84 (13) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
In their preliminary objections to the suit, the APC and Alia asked the court to dismiss the suit, saying the cause of action occurred on May 26th ,2022 and the suit was filed on June 10th, which is outside the 14 days for filing of pre election cases.
In his response to the preliminary objections, Aondoakaa, SAN, argued that no event occurred on May 26th ,2022, as even the primary election was held on May 27, 2020, pointing out that the cause of action begins from the day results were declared and the APC even conducted a rerun primary election on June 9th, 2022 whereas the suit was filed on June 10th, 2022, a day after the rerun election.
Upon resumption of the matter, Counsel to the former AGF, Okpoko (SAN), informed the court that the matter was adjourned for hearing and that he was ready to proceed with the case.
The Judge then directed lawyers to the parties to adopt their processes in the suit and Okpoko (SAN), adopted the processes filed on behalf of Aondoakaa, SAN, whereas Jerry Aondo, who held the brief of Mathew Burkaa, SAN, adopted the processes filed by the APC in opposition to the originating summons, while Sunday Ameh, SAN, adopted for Hyacinth Alia and Anthony Onyere adopted for INEC.
The APC and Alia through their counsels urged the court to dismiss the suit based on their preliminary objections, while INEC submitted that they won’t urge the court to do anything, but the commission is ready to abide by the decision of the court.
The Presiding judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed thereafter, adjourned the matter to November 17th 2022, for judgment.