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Isabella Davis

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Ondo guber: Court orders APC, INEC to file defence in suit seeking Aiyedatiwa’s sack as candidate

Ondo guber: Court orders APC, INEC to file defence in suit seeking Aiyedatiwa’s sack as candidate

Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja has ordered the All Progressives Congress (APC), Ondo State Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to file their defense in a suit seeking removal of Aiyedatiwa as APC gubernatorial candidate for November election.

The judge ordered that the three defendants must file their respective defence within days allowed by law since the suit is a time bound one.

The order of the court followed a claim by the APC that it had written a letter to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court requesting for transfer of the case from Abuja to Ondo State.

At Tuesday’s proceedings, APC lead counsel, Tayo Oyetibo, informed the court that his client had forwarded a letter to the Chief Judge praying for movement of the case from the Abuja division to Akure division.

He, however, admitted that APC had not received any response to the letter.

In response, Justice Ekwo held that there was no letter before him and as such, cannot act on anything not before the court.

Instead, the judge ordered that, with or without the letter before him, the defendants must respond to the issues raised by the plaintiff, Senator Jimoh Ibrahim, against the conduct of the primary election that produced Aiyedatiwa as the APC gubernatorial candidate.

APC, in its letter by Matthew Bukkar SAN, dated May 12, but received in Chief Judge’s Office on May 13, 2024, claimed that the primary election being challenged was conducted in Akure, the Ondo State capital.

It explained that it has a functional office in Akure with State Working Committee on ground and that the electoral body also has office in Akure.

Besides, APC said that Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa, whose candidacy is being challenged, is resident in Akure.

The party, therefore, said that Akure division of the Federal High Court is the approximate convenient place for the case to be determined.

However, counsel to the plaintiff, Chief Chris Uche SAN, was prevented from reacting to the letter on the ground that the said letter was not before the court.

After issuing the order, Justice Ekwo fixed May 29 for hearing of the suit with a warning that all processes in respect of the suit must be filed and exchanged by parties.

Ibrahim, who is representing Ondo South in the Senate, is praying the court to cancel the nomination of Aiyedatiwa as APC candidate on the ground that the April 20 primary election that produced him was unlawful.

In the suit instituted on his behalf by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chris Uche, Ibrahim, a governorship aspirant who participated in the primary election, alleged that the poll was marred with a lot of irregularities.

Among others, the Senator claimed that sections 221, 228 of the 1999 Constitution and that of 84 of the Electoral Act 2022 were grossly violated in the conduct of the disputed primary election by the APC.

He alleged that some delegates who could have voted for him at the primary election were not accredited to vote thereby making the primary election liable to be set aside and nullified.

He is therefore praying the court to bar INEC from accepting Governor Aiyedatiwa as the APC governorship candidate in the coming November 16 gubernatorial election in Ondo State.

The Senator also sought an order of perpetual injunction prohibiting governor Aiyedatiwa from holding himself out or parading himself as the APC governorship candidate.

Similarly, Ibrahim wants the court to set aside the purported primary election and compel the APC to conduct a fresh one in compliance with sections 221, 228 of the 1999 Constitution and that of 84 of the Electoral Act 2022.

The aggrieved governorship aspirant prayed the Federal High Court to delist the names of the APC and Aiyedatiwa from the political parties and candidates that would participate in the gubernatorial poll .

Plaintiff further requested that APC and Governor Aiyedatiwa be stripped of all rights except a fresh primary election is lawfully conducted for the purpose of nominating candidates for the governorship election.

At Tuesday’s proceedings, Tayo Oyetibo SAN stood for APC, Bode Olanipekun SAN for Governor Aiyedatiwa and Charles Edosanwan SAN represented INEC.

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