Hope of an aggrieved aspirant, Abubakar Achimugu of clinching the ticket of the All Progressives Congress APC (APC) in the forthcoming governorship election in Kogi State, was completely dashed on Thursday, following the dismissal of his appeal by the Supreme Court challenging the nomination of Usman Ododo.
Meanwhile, hope of another aspirant, Senator Smart Adeyemi, was kept alive till October 23, when the five member panel that heard his appeal against Ododo’s emergence as APC’s flag bearer will deliver their verdict.
Both Achimugu and Adeyemi challenged the candidacy of Ododo, who was the immediate past Auditor of Kogi State, while Achimugu claimed that Ododo’s nomination breached provisions of the law, Adeyemi, on his part, faulted the primary election that produced Ododo, stating that election did not take place in over 220 electoral wards in the state.
However, both the Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal in their separate judgments dismissed the suits for lacking in merit.
Not satisfied, Achimugu and Adeyemi filed the instant appeal which was heard Thursday.
When the individual cases were mentioned, Achimugu’s lawyer, Udeh Oyibo, took the hint of the apex court and accordingly withdrew the appeal, while Adeyemi’s lawyer, Musibau Adetunbi, SAN, convinced that his case has merit adopted and argued his brief.
Presiding Justice, John Okoro had hinted that the two appeals were defective on the grounds that the appellants in their respective cases did not mention anywhere that the concurrent judgments of the two lower courts were perverse.
Following the withdrawal, Achimugu’s appeal was dismissed, while the panel after listening to arguments in Adeyemi’s case fixed October 23, for judgment.
Convinced that Ododo cannot lawfully fly the flag of the APC in the forthcoming governorship election in Kogi State, two aggrieved aspirants have therefore asked the apex court to veto Ododo’s nomination by his party.
Specifically, Senator Adeyemi and Achimugu, who contested for the party’s ticket during the primary election for the selection of the party’s flag bearer urged the apex court to upturn the judgments of Court of Appeal and Federal High Court, which recognised that Ododo was validly nominated by the APC.
The appellate court had in two separate judgments last month, dismissed Adeyemi and Achimugu’s appeals for lacking merit.
In the lead judgment delivered by Justice Muhammed Shuaibu, the appellate court had held that the appellants failed to prove their case, adding that the burden of proof lies on the one who alleges irregularities in the conduct of the APC primary.
“The evidence placed before the trial court by the respondents was not controverted by the appellant in this circumstance, issue one is hereby resolved against the appellant.
“Where commission of a crime is an issue, it must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. Allegation of falsification of votes is a criminal act and it is required in law to be proved beyond reasonable doubt, which the appellant could not prove, consequently, issue two is resolved against the appellant.
“On the whole, the appeal is unmeritorious and it is hereby dismissed. The judgment of the lower court is hereby affirmed. Parties are to bear their respective cost,” Justice Shuaibu held.
But Adeyemi in the appeal said to have been filed last Friday, argued that the lower court erred when it arrived at the conclusion that he did not prove allegations contained in his suit.
The former Senator who represented Kogi West at the 9th Senate submitted amongst others that the irregularities, the results as announced at the end of the April 14 direct primary election were not in consonance with the results the committee claimed to have collated across the wards in the state; that in the process of allocating votes to the various aspirants, the election committee decided to allot a bogus 78,704 votes to Ododo and 311 votes- the least number of votes to Adeyemi
The appellant added that the number of votes announced for Ododo was higher than the figure recorded while that for Adeyemi was lower, respectively.
Besides, he claimed that the election held in only 11 wards in Kotonkarfe Local Government, excluding 228 wards out of the 239 electoral wards in total; that direct primary election mode allows party members to vote for their preferred aspirants at designated units in each of the 239 wards; that contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 (as amended), votes were merely allocated to aspirants.
Justice James Omotosho of the Federal High Court in Abuja had, in a judgment 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 purportedly produced Ododo as the APC governorship candidate did not hold and that the results were forged.
Delivering judgment 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 had 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 and further held that, there was evidence that the primary election was validly held and monitored by INEC.
Dissatisfied with the judgment which affirmed the primary election that produced Ododo as candidate of the party, Adeyemi approached the appellate court to set aside the judgment.
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 then 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 judgment, Justice Omotosho held that the plaintiff did not by way of credible evidence, establish his allegation and said, he found no reason to invalidate the outcome of the primary election and consequently dismissed the suit for lacking in merit.
In the case of Achimugu, Justice Obiora Egwuatu of a Federal High Court, Abuja, had in his judgment held that contrary to the claim of Achimugu, evidence showed that Ododo resigned his appointment more than 30 days before participating in the APC primary.
According to Justice Egwuatu, exhibits tendered by the defendants showed that while Ododo’s resignation letter was received by the Office of the Kogi State Governor on March 8, that of the 3rd defendant, Mr Salami Deedat, was received on March 9.
“Satisfied that they resigned their appointment on March 8 and 9, more than 30 days before the April 14 primary election of the APC, the suit is bereft of any merit and is accordingly dismissed,” the court held.
Achimugu, in a Notice of Appeal filed on July 21 through his counsel, Josiah Daniel-Ebune said Justice Egwuatu erred in law and occasioned a miscarriage of justice when he held that Ododo and Salami Deedat (2nd and 3rd defendants) duly resigned their appointment and thus, not caught up with the mandatory provision of what the law requires them to do before they participated in the APC’s governorship primary election for Kogi state held on April 15, 2023.
He asked the appellate court for an order setting aside the judgement of the trial court and grant all his reliefs sought in his amended originating summons.
But, the appeal was dismissed for lacking in merit, thereby leading to the current appeal to the apex court.
Alex Enumah in Abuja