By Olalekan Awojodu
Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Tuesday dismissed the suit filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) seeking the disqualification of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu from the September 19 governorship election in Edo State.
Justice Mohammed dismissed the suit on the grounds that it “has become an academic exercise” having been overtaken by events.
The PDP had on July 3 dragged Ize-Iyamu and two others to court claiming that the primary election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) that produced Ize-Iyamu as APC’s candidate in the September 19 governorship election was not validly conducted.
Sued alongside Ize-Iyamu was the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the APC, who were 1st and 3rd respondents respectively.
PDP in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/ CS/69/20, had praying the court for an order disqualifying Ize-iyamu from contesting in the September 19 governorship poll on account of not being validly nominated by his party, the APC.
But Ize-Iyamu and the APC in their opposition to the suit urged the court to dismiss it for being a mere academic exercise as the said election has been conducted and both Ize-Iyamu and his party, the APC lost out.
They also told the court that they did not challenge the outcome of the September 19 governorship election which was won by the PDP and Mr Godwin Obaseki and Philip Shuaibu, Governor and deputy respectively.
INEC’s lawyer, Mrs Wendy Kuku, in her submission urged the court to dismiss the suit for lacking in merit, while counsel to the APC, Mr Akinlolu Kehinde SAN, prayed the court to dismiss the suit on the grounds that the suit was tantamount to “Mr A taking panadol for Mr B’s headache’.
On his part, Mr Roland Otaru SAN, counsel to the third defendant also prayed the court to dismiss the suit on the grounds that it had become academic since the primaries had already been conducted and that the plaintiff did not participate in the primaries.
“The plaintiff is simply a meddlesome interloper in another party’s primary election,’’ Otaru submitted.
Delivering judgment, Justice Mohammed agreed with Ize-Iyamu and APC’s lawyer that the suit has become academic because their is “no benefit” to the plaintiff if the suit succeeds.
According to the judge, the defendants are not challenging the outcome of the September 19 governorship poll, adding that it is the Election Petition Tribunal that determines who is validly elected in any general election.
He also pointed out that the PDP did not show how the APC and Ize-Iyamu would benefit from the case in the reliefs sought before the court.
The judge noted that since there is no advantage for the APC, it does not make sense to “hold that APC did not hold a valid primary election. This suit has become academic and it is hereby struck out”.
Meanwhile, the judge admitted in evidence Form EC9, a document from INEC, as exhibit PL2 in another case involving governor Obaseki over alleged degree certificate forgery.
The APC and one Edobor Williams are seeking the disqualification of Obaseki in the September 19 governorship election on claims that he forged his first degree certificate he submitted to INEC in aid of his qualification for the governorship poll.
Justice Mohammed admitted the document on the grounds that it was relevant to the case at hand.
The PDP and Obaseki had objected to the tendering of the document on the grounds that “it did conform with the laws guiding admissibility of documents”, adding that there was no evidence of payment.
However, ruling on the objections, Justice Mohammed held that the fact that the process of tendering the document was not enough reason for it to be rejected.
He stated that the way out of the situation is for the witness to be cross examined by the defendants.
According to him, without the form EC9, “the whole case would collapse like a pack of card”.
On the issue of payment, the judge also noted that the Certified True Copy (CTC) sought to be tendered was brought at the instance of the court as an official body and as such the court cannot be required to pay for the document.
“Objection is overruled” he said, “counsel are free to cross examine the witness”.
He subsequently admitted the document as exhibit PL2.
The plaintiff then called in their third witness, Emmanuel Balogun, an Associate Professor, in the Department of Economics, University of Lagos to give his evidence.
However, PDP and Obaseki’s lawyers opposed the calling of the witness on grounds that procedure for calling a subpoenaed witness, including service was not followed.
In a short ruling, the court allowed the witness to give his evidence, noting that the lapses complained by Obaseki and PDP were on the part of the court.
He subsequently adjourned till Wednesday for the plaintiffs to close their case and for the defense to open theirs.