A Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed a suit the immediate past Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, filed to stop the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Bola Ahmed Tinubu, from contesting the 2023 presidential election.
In a judgment on Friday, December 23, 2022, Justice Zainab Abubakar held that her court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the suit which was statute barred, having been filed outside the 14 days allowed under Section 285(9) of the Constitution.
Nwajiuba, who is a chieftain of the APC and one of the aspirants that paid a whopping N100million to obtain its presidential form, had in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1114/2022, prayed the court to nullify the nomination of Tinubu as flag-bearer of the party for the impending election.
He contended that the primary election that produced Tinubu, was not only marred by manifest irregularities but conducted in breach of both the 1999 Constitution, as amended and the Electoral Act.
Aside from Tinubu, the APC and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, were cited as defendants in the matter.
Delivering judgement in the matter on Friday, Justice Zainab Abubakar held that the court was bereft of the requisite jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
Justice Abubakar held that the suit, which was filed outside the 14 days allowed by Section 285(9) of the Constitution, had become statute-barred.
Consequently, she dismissed the suit and declined to grant any of the reliefs the plaintiff sought against the defendants.
The judgement made it the second time the high court would dismiss Nwajiuba’s legal quest to invalidate Tinubu’s nomination.
It will be recalled that Nwajiuba, who was the first Minister in the cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari to resign from office to further his political ambition, was conspicuously absent on the day the APC held its presidential primary election in Abuja.
Even though his name was mentioned severally as he was called to mount the podium to address the delegates as other aspirants did, he was nowhere to be seen.
He subsequently approached the court to challenge Tinubu’s eligibility to contest the presidential election with the ticket of the ruling APC.
He had in his first suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/942/2022, which was dismissed by trial Justice Inyang Ekwo on December 15, accused Tinubu of acting in breach of the Electoral Act.
In the suit he filed alongside a non-governmental organization under the aegis of the Incorporated Trustees of Rights for All International, Nwajiuba, alleged that the primary election that produced Tinubu was fraught with massive vote buying, insisting that majority of the delegates were bought over with dollars.
To strengthen his allegation, the ex-Minister who polled only one vote at the primary election held on June 8, included in his proof of evidence, a video recording showing the immediate past Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, decrying that delegates at the APC primary sold their votes.
Besides, the plaintiffs queried Tinubu’s source of income and his educational qualifications.
They urged the court to declare that the 3rd defendant (Tinubu), “who had previously sworn an affidavit in the INEC nomination form declaring that he lost his primary and secondary school documents and benefitted therefrom, cannot in a later affidavit deny and abandon same facts deposed in the previous affidavit and thus falsely contradicting his academic qualifications”.
The plaintiffs attached to the suit, copies of affidavits Tinubu deposed to while he was the governorship candidate of the Alliance for Democracy, AD, in Lagos state.
“That the entire circumstances surrounding the two depositions of the 3rd defendant points to the fact that they are false and misleading and cannot be relied upon.
“That the possession of a higher degree does not substitute the minimum requirement of law, where the minimum academic requirement is manifestly absent by an avowed fact.
“That the possession of a higher education qualification such as a first degree or masters degree is predicated on the minimum educational qualification as provided in the Constitution”, plaintiffs averred.
Among other things, the plaintiffs prayed the court to determine; “Whether the All Progressives Congress is exempted from compliance with section 90(3) of the Electoral Act 2022, having presented the 3rd defendant (Tinubu) as its presidential candidate to the 6th defendant (INEC) and the 6th defendant accepted and published same, being the name of a person whose source of N100m contribution fee for the nomination form and expression of interest form was not verified.
“Whether the constitutional provision prescribing the academic qualification of candidates and prescribing minimum qualification of school certificate or its equivalent has been complied with by the 3rd defendant who on oath, has admitted that he does not possess such minimum qualification prescribed in the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria”.
The suit was however dismissed as lacking in merit by the court.