Monday, 5th June 2023

Double victory for Tinubu as courts clear way for inauguration

By Ameh Ochojila, Abuja
27 May 2023   |   5:20 am
The Supreme Court has given a judicial seal of approval for the inauguration of the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and Vice President-elect, Kashim Shettima, on May 29, with the dismissal of a suit filed by the Peoples Democratic Party...

President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu

*Supreme Court Throws Out PDP’s Appeal
*High Court Slams N17m Fine On Plaintiffs

The Supreme Court has given a judicial seal of approval for the inauguration of the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and Vice President-elect, Kashim Shettima, on May 29, with the dismissal of a suit filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) seeking their disqualification from the 2023 presidential election.

This was as a Federal High Court in Abuja presided over by Justice James Omotoso has imposed a fine of N17 million on three litigants and their lawyer for filing a frivolous suit seeking to stop the inauguration of the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

The Supreme Court yesterday held that PDP’s suit seeking the disqualification of Tinubu and Shetima on ground of alleged double nomination by Shettima was grossly lacking in merit and dismissed it.

Justice Adamu Jauro, who delivered the lead judgment, also awarded a fine of N2 million against PDP for meddling into the internal affairs of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the conduct of its primary elections and nomination of its candidates.

Justice Jauro agreed with Tinubu’s lawyer, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) that PDP acted as a busybody and meddlesome interloper in the ways and manners it dabbled into APC’s affairs unjustly.

The apex court held that apart from the fact that PDP lacked requisite jurisdiction to institute the suit, the party also failed to provide a scintilla of evidence that Shettima engaged in double nomination.

The court described the claim by PDP on the alleged double nomination of the Vice President-elect as most unfortunate and a clear deliberate mischief to mislead the court and the country.

The court also agreed with Fagbemi that no matter the pains of PDP on how APC conducted its primary election and nominated its candidates, PDP must remain an onlooker.

“It is abundantly clear that the Appellant (PDP) in the totality of its position in the instant case, is peeping and poke nosing into the affairs of another party as a busybody and meddlesome interloper,” Justice Jauro ruled.

The court held that the action of PDP was painful because it used the social media to set a booby trap for the Supreme Court to blackmail it. “This is most unfortunate, unwarranted and uncalled for,” it held.

The court further held: “It should be noted that no political party can challenge the nomination of another political party.

“A political party lacks the right to challenge the activities of INEC on account of the nomination of another political party’s candidate.
“No court has the jurisdiction to entertain such a suit by another party.”

The PDP in the appeal prayed for the disqualification of Tinubu and Shettima. The party also implored the court to reverse the Court of Appeal judgment, which held that the party failed to establish its locus standi.

The PDP, in the suit filed on July 28, 2022, claimed that Shettima’s nomination as Tinubu’s running mate was in breach of the provisions of Sections 29 (1), 33, 35 and 84(1)(2) of the Electoral Act, 2022.

The party argued that Shettima’s nomination to contest the position of vice president and Borno Central Senatorial seat at the same time contravened the law. The suit predated the February 2023 presidential election.

Praise Ilemona, Pastor Paul Issac Audu and Dr. Anongu Moses, who jointly instituted the suit seeking to stop Tinubu’s inauguration, had prayed for an order of the court to halt the programme.

The three litigants are to jointly pay the President-elect a sum of N10 million and another N5 million to the APC who were part of the seven defendants in the suit.

Justice Omotoso also ordered that an interest of 10 per cent be placed on the judgment debt per year until when finally liquidated.
Their counsel, Daniel Elomah, who filed the suit declared as vexatious by the court, was ordered to pay N1 million to each of Tinubu and the APC.

At yesterday’s proceedings, their counsel had pleaded profusely to pardon his clients, advising that the court should counsel them against filing frivolous suit in future.

Tinubu’s counsel, Fagbemi, had argued that the suit be dismissed on the ground that the three plaintiffs lacked locus standi to institute it. The senior lawyer informed the Court that none of the plaintiffs participated in the primary election that produced the President-elect but chose to harass, intimidate and irritate Tinubu through a frivolous suit.

Fagbemi further argued that the litigants engaged in gross abuse of court by their multiple cases against Tinubu and the APC in various courts without any reasonable cause of action.

The three plaintiffs had in their dismissed suit sought to stop the May 29 inauguration on the alleged ground that Tinubu supplied false information to INEC about his age and citizenship status.

Justice Omotosho, in his ruling, held that the suit was frivolous and an abuse of court process. The Judge held that the plaintiffs lacked the locus standi to file the suit, adding that the court could not exercise jurisdiction to hear it because it relates to a presidential election.