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Oguntuase faults Appeal Court’s interpretation of public officer


[FILE] Ekiti state governor, Kayode Fayemi wins election tribunal.

A public affairs commentator, Ben Oguntuase, has faulted Court of Appeal’s decision, which questioned validity of electoral guidelines of All Progressives Congress (APC), in the matter between former Ekiti State governor Segun Oni and incumbent governor Kayode Fayemi. He said failure of the court to discover the intention behind the party’s guidelines and give effect to it was a regrettable abdication of its judicial responsibility.

Oni had challenged Fayemi’s eligibility to participate in the May 12, 2018 APC gubernatorial primaries as he (Fayemi), who then was Minister of Mines and Steel Development, did not resign his appointment before the primary election contrary to the party’s guidelines. Article 2 of APC’s 2014 guidelines for nomination of candidates for public office states, among others, that an aspirant seeking public office on its platform shall not remain an employee of public service within 30 days to an election.

It also states that such a person must not have been convicted for embezzlement or fraud by a judicial commission of inquiry or tribunal set up under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act, or any other Law by the Federal or state Government, which conviction has been accepted by the Federal or state government.

According to Oguntuase, Oni’s claim is that Fayemi violated the two provisions having failed to resign his appointment, as minister and having been indicted by the Oyewole Judicial Commission of Inquiry, which indictment had been accepted via a White Paper issued to that effect.He said Fayemi’s defence was that he was not covered by provision of the guideline because he was not an employee in public service and also not affected by the Oyewole indictment, which could not be compared to a regular court.

A Federal High Court in Ado-Ekiti agreed with him and dismissed the application. But dissatisfied, the applicant filed a petition at the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal, Ado-Ekiti gave a unanimous verdict on February 12, 2018 in favour of Fayemi and questioned the validity of APC’s guidelines by declaring that “generally, a party’s constitution and guidelines on qualification or disqualification for election to the office of governor or any other elective office on its platform to be valid, must conform to provisions of Section 177 and 182(1) and provisions of the 1999 Constitution.

Oguntuase said the decision was absurd and contrary to good sense, public order and due process that while being a minister, a person should be permitted to aspire and contest for office of governor in a party primary. As the matter would be heard on April 12, Oguntuase expressed hope that the Supreme Court will ‘correct’ the Court of Appeal’s decision, which he described as a grievous lapse.

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