A Federal High Court on Monday in Abuja denied the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Godwin Emefiele, a restraining order sought by him against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) in relation to his presidential ambition.
Emefiele had moved for a status quo ante bellum injunction against INEC and the AGF through his lawyer, Mike Ozekhome SAN, so that he would not be forced to quit until 30 days before the general election.
Emefiele denied being a political appointee but a public servant not covered by Section 84 (12) of the new Electoral Act 2022 in an ex-parte application filed on Monday.
The CBN governor requested that the court use Section 318 of the 1999 Constitution to prevent the defendants from requesting him to resign until 30 days before the presidential election in February 2023.
Emefiele expressed concern that the sale and submission of the Presidential nomination form would expire on Wednesday, and that unless the INEC and AGF were ordered to maintain status ante bellum as of May 5, when he filed the suit, he would be forced to resign before his form was accepted by the appropriate authority.
Moving the motion, Ozekhome said though his client had not told him under which political party he would love to contest, the application became necessary in order for the court to determine the constitutionality of his (Emefiele’s) decision.
“The plaintiff is a current governor of CBN. He desires to run for the office of president of Nigeria in the election coming up in 2023.
“But he is in a dilemma whether he can run. Can he run? If he can run, when must he leave office as CBN governor?
“We want the interpretation of the law as it is today,” he said.
He argued that Emefiele, by virtue of Section 318 of the 1999 Constitution, is a public servant.
He said that only political appointees are caught with Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act, 2022, which he said had been struck down by a Federal High Court sitting in Umuahia in Abia.
According to him, the matter is currently on appeal and the Court of Appeal has not come up with a decision.
“Even if the Court of Appeal upturn that judgment, is the plaintiff a political appointee? Our answer is no,” he said.
He argued further that Emefiele is only bound by Section 137 which says that a public officer shall resign from office not later than 30 days before election.
“This is the constitution and we seek constitutional interpretation of this matter,” he said.
But in his ruling, Justice Mohammed did not grant the motion.
Rather, he adjourned the matter until May 12 for ruling.
The judge made an order directing the INEC and AGF to appear on Thursday by noon why Emefiele’s prayers should not be granted.
He ordered that all the applications, including the ex-parte, filed in the course of the matter be served on all the defendants.
He also directed that hearing notices be issued to the defendants to appear on the said date to show cause why the prayers should not be granted
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