Court fixes judgment for Nov 30 in suit seeking Soludo’s disqualification

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A Federal High Court in Abuja has scheduled judgment for November 30 in a suit challenging the qualification of the governor-elect, Charles Soludo, and the deputy governor-elect, Onyeka Ibezim, to contest the November 6 Anambra State governorship election.

Justice Taiwo Taiwo fixed the date yesterday after lawyers for the plaintiffs and defendants made their final submissions.

The plaintiffs – Adindu Valentine and Egwudike Chukwuebuka – are contending that Soludo provided false information in the affidavit (Form EC9) he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

In the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/711/2021, they claimed that Soludo indicated in the affidavit that he was contesting the Aguata 2 Constituency seat when, in fact, he was contesting the governorship seat.

Defendants in the suit are INEC, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Soludo and Ibezim.

In their final submission, the plaintiffs’ 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.

“The constitution has made a state a constituency in relation to the governorship election, but in this case, the third defendant (Soludo) named Aguata 2 as the constituency he is contesting,” they argued.

The lawyers added that their clients established that there was a cause of action and that the court had jurisdiction to determine the case.

They said: “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 plaintiff arose on the 6th of July 2021 when the third defendant’s (Soludo’s) Form EC9 was submitted by the political party (the second defendant).

“There is evidence that INEC received the submitted Form EC9 on July 6th 2021.”

The lawyers then prayed the court to find merit in the case and grant the reliefs sought by their clients.

Counsel for APGA and Soludo, Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), argued that the suit was without merit and that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear it.

Ikpeazu contended that error in an affidavit cannot be a basis to disqualify a candidate from election.

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

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

“The contention that the 14 days required under Section 285(9) of the Constitution, should accrue from the date the first  respondent (INEC) received those affidavits, has no supporting foundation,” he said.

Ikpeazu urged the court to uphold the preliminary objection filed by his clients and dismiss the case.

Lawyer for Ibezim, C. Mbaeri, argued in similar vein and prayed the court to uphold his objection and dismiss the suit.

Counsel for INEC, Bashir Abubakar, said his client did not file any process in the case and had elected to leave the decision at the discretion of the court.

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