The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division on Wednesday reserved judgement in the appeal brought before it by a former Senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District at the National Assembly, Senator Smart Adeyemi, seeking to nullify the governorship primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) held in Kogi State which produced Ahmed Usman Ododo as the party’s standard-bearer in the November 11 governorship election in the state.
Justice James Omotosho of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, had in a judgement delivered on July 12, held that Adeyemi did not prove his allegation that Ododo was not lawfully nominated by the APC.
Adeyemi had alleged in his suit that the primary election that produced Ododo as the APC governorship candidate did not hold and that the results were forged.
Delivering judgement in the suit marked FHC/CS/556/2023, Justice Omotosho held that Adeyemi’s allegations of results forgery were criminal and must be proved beyond reasonable doubts.
The court noted that the burden of proof was on the applicant to produce the forged results or the original copies of the results to discharge the burden and added that failure to discharge the burden was fatal to the applicant’s case.
The court held that contrary to the plaintiff’s position, there was evidence that the primary election was validly held and monitored by INEC.
Dissatisfied with the judgement which affirmed the primary election that produced Ododo as candidate of the party, Adeyemi approached the appellate court to set aside the judgement.
He insisted that the trial court failed to properly evaluate the proof of evidence that was placed before it by the parties and that there were inconsistencies in the report tendered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the affidavit that the APC deposed to.
He said while INEC claimed that option A4 mode was adopted for the primary election it monitored, the APC told the court that the election was through a secret ballot.
When the matter came up on Wednesday, Counsel in the matter identified and adopted their processes filed in respect of the matter and the three-member panel of Justices of the court, led by Justice Muhammed Lawal Shuaibu reserved judgement to a date that would be communicated to parties.
Adeyemi had in his suit at the trial court, sought the cancellation of the primary election on the ground that it was not validly conducted and prayed the court to declare as illegal, unlawful and invalid, the purported direct primary election said to have been conducted by the APC, through which Ododo emerged as a candidate for the governorship poll.
The former lawmaker told the court that Ododo was handpicked as flag-bearer of the party by the outgoing Governor of the state, Yahaya Bello, in gross violation of Section 177 of the 1999 Constitution, Section 29 and 84 of the Electoral Act as well as Article 20 of the Constitution of the APC.
He urged the court to declare the purported primary election as invalid and to issue an order, compelling INEC not to recognize Ododo as the bonafide candidate of the party for the governorship election.
Besides, the aggrieved governorship aspirant, through his team of lawyers led by Dr Adekunle Ottitoju, prayed the court to order the APC to conduct a fresh primary election and to give all aspirants equal opportunity as prescribed by the Electoral Act, 2022.
But, in his judgement, Justice Omotosho held that the plaintiff did not by way of credible evidence, establish his allegation.
The court held that Senator Adeyemi had after he lost in the election, lodged a complaint before an appeal Committee that was constituted by the APC and that evidence before it, showed that Adeyemi failed to appear before the Committee to prove his allegations.
The court said it found no reason to invalidate the outcome of the primary election and consequently dismissed the suit for lacking in merit.
The former lawmaker had, in a 35 paragraph affidavit he filed in support of his originating summons, told the court that he obtained nomination and expression of interest forms from the party at the cost of N50 million, following which he was screened and cleared to participate in the primary election that was slated for April 14, 2023.
Adeyemi told the court that while he waited at his constituency to cast his vote along with his people, he was shocked when information came to him that the purported primary election had been conducted and a purported winner declared.
He alleged that governor Bello manipulated the whole process to ensure that his first cousin from the same polling unit, from the same ward, from the same local government and from the same tribe, Ododo, emerged as the governorship candidate of the party, against the laid down rules and regulations.
Adeyemi further claimed that the governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle, who was supposed to preside over and announced the winner of the primary election, left Kogi state in annoyance so as to disassociate himself from the outcome of what they described as shambolic primary election.
He prayed the court to nullify the governorship primary election and order the APC to conduct a fresh one.
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