The Supreme Court, on Friday, dismissed an appeal brought before it by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) seeking the disqualification of the president-elect, Senator Bola Tinubu and the vice president-elect, Senator Kashim Shettima of the All Progressives Congress (APC) from participating in the February 25 presidential election.
In a unanimous judgment of the apex court delivered by Justice Adamu Jauro, the court held that the PDP has no locus standi (right) to file a legal action against an internal affair of the APC.
“Whichever angle, this appeal praying for the disqualification of Tinubu and Shettima on the grounds of alleged double nomination of Shettima is viewed, it is frivolous and liable to be dismissed,” the court said and consequently dismissed the appeal for “grossly” lacking in merit.
The court also slammed a N2 million fine against the PDP in favour of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), APC, Tinubu and Shetimma who were first to fourth respondents in the appeal.
The court held that the appellant, having not participated in the primary election of the APC, has no legal right to challenge the nomination of the presidential and vice presidential candidates of the APC for the 2023 general election.
It said the constitution does not allow a political party to delve into the internal affairs of another political party and described the PDP as a meddlesome interloper and a busybody to have filed the suit.
The court held that apart from the fact that the PDP lacked requisite jurisdiction to institute the suit, the party also failed to provide scintilla of evidence that Shettima engaged in double nomination and added that Shettima withdrew his nomination as the APC’s candidate for Borno Central Senatorial District before accepting his nomination as the party’s vice presidential candidate.
He said the PDP’s claim on the alleged double nomination of the vice president-elect was most unfortunate and a clear deliberate mischief to mislead the court and the country.
“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,” the court held, adding that the action of the PDP was painful because it used the social media to set a booby trap for the Supreme Court to blackmail it.
Despite the clearing of the legal impediment to Tinubu and Shetimma’s inauguration at the apex court, the Federal High Court, Abuja, is currently entertaining another suit brought before it, seeking to stall their inauguration on Monday, May 29.
It was gathered that the legal team of the president-elect split itself in two to enable representation at the apex court and the Federal High Court.
While adopting the written address of the APC at the Supreme Court, its counsel, Mr Babatunde Ogala (SAN), asked the court to strike out the case since the 180 days stipulated by law to hear the case had elapsed.
Mr Joe Agim (SAN), who represented the PDP, argued that the issue of 180 days did not apply because the matter of double nomination was purely an illegality and because illegality cannot stand, the court had the right to entertain the matter.
The Court of Appeal in Abuja had, in a judgment, dismissed the appeal filed by the PDP seeking the disqualification of Tinubu and Shettima as the presidential and vice-presidential candidates of the APC in the February 25 election.
The PDP, in their appeal marked CA/ABJ/CV/108/2023, urged the appellate court to reverse the January 13 judgment by Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which dismissed its suit on the grounds that it lacked the locus standi to institute the suit.
The three-member panel of the Justices of the Court of Appeal held in the unanimous judgment that the PDP failed to establish its locus standi to institute the legal action.
Justice James Abundaga, who agreed with the submissions of lawyers of the respondents, including Thomas Ojo of Lateef Fagbemi and Co, that the PDP was a busybody who dabbled in issues that were internal affairs of the APC, held that the trial court was right to have held that the PDP failed to establish its locus standi.
“The appellant, having failed to disclose its locus standi, this appeal fails and it is hereby dismissed,” the appellate court held and proceeded to affirm the judgment of the Federal High Court.
Justice Abundaga awarded a N5 million cost against the counsel for the appellant, J.O. Olotu.
The PDP had, in the suit filed on July 28, 2022, challenged the validity of the Tinubu/Shettima ticket for the 2023 presidential election, arguing that Shettima’s nomination as the running mate was in breach of the provisions of sections 29(1), 33, 35 and 84(1))(2) of the Electoral Act, 2022 (as amended).
The party claimed that Shettima had double nomination and argued that Shettima’s nomination as a vice-presidential candidate as well as candidate for the Borno Central Senatorial seat was in contravention of the law.
Atiku vow’s to fight on
Meanwhile, former Vice President and candidate of the PDP in the February 25 presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has said that despite Friday’s verdict of the Supreme Court dismissing his party’s case against Shettima for double candidature, his legal team will prove that the election was rigged.
He said the court judgment was not a setback for his drive to get justice over the conduct of the election.
Atiku made the declaration on his verified Twitter handle @atiku as a reaction to the ruling on Friday.
He tweeted: “The Supreme Court’s dismissal of the case of the @OfficialPDPNig is not a setback to my quest for justice.
“Our legal team is primed to robustly prove that the election of February 25 was fraudulent, did not comply with the constitutional requirements and the guidelines of the Independent National Electoral Commission, @inecnigeria, and that the announced winner was not even qualified to contest the poll.
“The battle for democracy and the enthronement of a new order to spur growth and development in Nigeria is one to which I have committed my all and from which I am not ready to walk away at this point when our nation is at a crossroads. We know that sooner than later, our esteemed Justices will make the pronouncement that will serve as a befitting requiem for mandate bandits.
“I urge my supporters to exercise patience and conduct themselves peaceably as we diligently conduct our litigation at the Presidential Election Tribunal Court.”
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