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2023: Court Dismisses Suit Seeking To Disqualify Tinubu, Atiku From 2023 Election, Dissolves NGO

The Federal High Court,  Abuja, dismissed a suit seeking to disqualify the presidential candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and that of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The court also dissolved the plaintiff,  a non-governmental organisation, the Incorporated Trustees of Rights for All International for deviating from its charitable works.

Justice Inyang Ekwo passed the judgment on Thursday, while ruling in application filed by the  NGO to  challenge the presidential primary elections of the APC and the PDP, for allegedly violating the Electoral Act, 2022.

Justice Ekpo said, the NGO abandoned ts charitable purposes to challenge the legality of the primary election of Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar.

Former Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba was second plaintiff in the case.

The Incorporated Trustees of Rights for All International,  had in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/942/2022, prayed the Federal High Court to disqualify Tinubu and Atiku, over alleged breach of the Electoral Act  2022.

Specifically, the Plaintiffs, in the suit  filed through their lawyer,. Okere Nnamdi, alleged that the primary election that produced Tinubu as the 2023 presidential candidate of the APC, was marred by corruption and massive vote buying, insisting that majority of the delegates were bought over with dollars.

To strengthen his allegation, Nwajiuba who polled only one vote at the primary election that was 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 master’s degree is predicated on the minimum educational qualification as provided in the Constitution”, plaintiffs argued.

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 plaintiffs equally urged the court to also disqualify Atiku who was cited as the 4th Defendant in the suit, for also engaging in vote buying.

“Whether the conduct of the 3rd and 4th defendants (Tinubu and Atiku) and their agents who by way of corrupt inducement of delegates with US Dollars, which being a  foreign currency and non-legal tender in Nigeria under the CBN Act, and the possession which requires declaration under the EFCC Act,  used the Dollars for inducement of votes in favour of the  3rd and 4th defendants have rendered the votes of such delegates cast in favour of the 3rd and 4th defendants at the 1st and 2nd defendant’s special conventions illegal, void and invalid and of no effect whatsoever; and thus inhibiting the 3rd and 4th defendants from benefiting from the proceeds of their own gross illegalities”, they prayed.

Defendants in the matter include the APC, PDP, the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, and the Independent National Electoral Commission.

But the APC and PDP asked the court to strike out the suit for lack of jurisdiction and the plaintiff’s lack of locus standi ( no right to appear in court).

Atiku Abubakar’s lawyer urged the judge to strike out his name from the case.

But Okere contended that the NGO was registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission and has the right to challenge public interest matters.

In his ruling on Thursday, Justice Ekwo held that there is no provision in the Companies and Allied Matters Act, CAMA, that allows an NGO to take action outside its purview.

He maintained that an NGO is largely created for charitable purposes.

“In this case, the plaintiff which is supposed to be an association under CAC is challenging issues bordering on political matters”,  Ekwo said agreeing with the defendants that the NGO had no business being in court in the first place.

“I, therefore, hold that by provisions of CAMA, the first plaintiff (NGO) cannot initiate this action, in other words, the plaintiff lacks locus standi to bring this case”, the judge said.

Ekwo also found out the NGO that filed the suit was created and registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) by the same lawyer who filed the suit before him.

Ekwo said Okere being a lawyer, engaged in illegality by using his association to undertake a political agenda contrary to the provisions of CAMA.

“It is only in this country that an association registered for charitable purposes will be used for politics”,  Ekwo said.

He advised that at a time in the political journey of Nigeria, politics and political activities must be left to those who are authorized by law to do so.

He said that a group created under CAC is bound to be dissolved if it acts contrary to public policy which guides the activities of associations registered under Part F of the CAMA 2020.

His words,” The actions by the 1st plantiff (NGO) is an outrageous act to all known principles of the law of associations.

” The court is bound to make appropriate consequential order in the circumstance of this case.

“I, therefore, make an order dissolving the first plaintiff forthwith.

“The CAC is hereby ordered to take over the dissolved 1st plaintiff and deal with it in accordance with the provisions of the law on dissolution of bodies registered pursuant to Part F of the CAMA 2022.”

On the second defendant, Nwajiuba, the judge observed that he indeed contested the primary election of the APC and scored one vote and had the right to come and testify.

But the judge wondered why the former education minister did not personally provide evidence in court as an eyewitness but sent a group that did not participate at the convention to file the case on his behalf.

“Overall, the lack of locus standi of the first plaintiff has affected the second plaintiff. I make an order striking out the matter for lack of locus standi of the plaintiffs”,  Ekwo said.



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