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Court upholds Soludo’s election, nullifies eligibility suit

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A Federal High Court, Abuja in Thursday declined an application to nullify the election of Charles Soludo as the governor-elect of Anambra State.

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Wednesday declined to nullify the election of Prof. Chukwuma Soludo as the governor-elect of Anambra State,

The court, in a judgement delivered by Justice Taiwo Taiwo, dismissed a suit filed by Adindu Valentine and Egwudike Chukwuebuka that sought to invalidate Soludo’s election on the allegation that he supplied false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The plaintiffs had in their suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/711/2021, alleged that Soludo lied in the affidavit (Form EC9), which he submitted to INEC.

According to them, Soludo attached to his nomination form that he was contesting the Aguata 2 Constituency seat, when, in fact, he was contesting the governorship seat.

They told the court that an affidavit of Soludo’s running mate and Deputy Governor-elect, Onyeka Ibezim, also submitted to INEC, contained false particulars considering that he stated that he was vying for Awka 2 Constituency seat.

The defendants in the suit were the INEC, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Soludo and the Deputy Governor-elect, Ibezim.

The plaintiffs through their lawyers, A. O. Ijeri and Kelvin Okoko, argued that having indicated the wrong seat on the form, Soludo violated extant legal provisions and ought to be disqualified.

READ ALSO: Challenging Soludo’s victory in Anambra election is disrespect to Buhari —APGA tells Uba

They argued: “The constitution has made a state a constituency concerning the governorship election, but in this case, the third defendant (Soludo) named Aguata 2 as the constituency he is contesting the governorship seat.

“The cause of action in a pre-election matter, by the provision of Section 285(9) of the Constitution, is determined by the date of the occurrence of the event, a decision or action complained about in the suit by the Plaintiff.

“And in the instant suit, the cause of action of the Plaintiffs arose on July 6, 2021, when the 3rd Defendant’s (Soludo’s) Form EC9 was submitted by the political party (the 2nd Defendant).”

However, counsel for APGA and Soludo, Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, queried the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the matter which he maintained was statute-barred.

Apart from contending that the suit was filed outside the 14 days stipulated by the Constitution, Ikpeazu, argued that an error in an affidavit could not be a basis to disqualify a candidate from an election.

He argued that the false information claimed by the plaintiffs was not among the grounds stated in the 1999 Constitution for the disqualification of a candidate.

“False information, as envisaged in Section 31 of the Electoral Act is criminal. Section 31 does not deal with error, but a deliberate effort to steal a match and to misrepresent, he stated.

INEC, through its lawyer, Bashir Abubakar, said it would leave the issue to the discretion of the court.

Meanwhile, in his judgement, Justice Taiwo dismissed the preliminary objection challenging the competence of the suit and jurisdiction of the court to hear it, however, he held that the plaintiffs failed to establish that they had a reasonable cause of action.

Justice Taiwo held that the plaintiffs failed to convince the court on how the alleged false information both Soludo and Ibezim supplied to INEC, misled them.

The court held that since the allegation by the plaintiffs were also criminal, they ought to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

It held that the suit was filed in bad faith and a good example of cases that are not geared towards strengthening the tenets of democracy in the country.

“I am yet to come to terms on the purpose for which this suit was filed. I am saying this because I am not convinced that this action is reasonable”, Justice Taiwo added.

Consequently, the court awarded N2 million cost against the plaintiffs, in favour of the APGA, Soludo and Ibezim.

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