Certificate Scam: INEC, APC ask court to dismiss suit against Buhari

Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the All Progressives Congress, APC, yesterday urged an Abuja Federal High Court to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to disqualify Gen. Muhammadu Buhari from contesting the rescheduled presidential election.

A legal practitioner, Mr. Chinwike Okafor had initiated the lawsuit against Buhari to truncate his presidential ambition.

In the suit, he had claimed that Buhari perjured, having claimed to have attached his academic qualifications, particularly his school certificates to his form which was submitted to INEC when he knew that they were not attached.

The issue of Buhari’s eligibility for the election on the account of the school certificates had dominated the public space for weeks before it moved to court. Both APC and Buhari had appeared in court at the last adjourned date on protest.

They had contended that they were not served the court process in the case as required by the principle of natural justice and the rule of the court.

Although Okafor got the order of the court to serve the process in the case through substituted means, Buhari had brought an application to set the order aside.

He is contending that as far as he was concerned, there was no suit before the court for determination.

Buhari was represented in court by former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN. APC is also toeing the same line of opposition to the suit.

Besides, both INEC and APC are also arguing that the issue in dispute was perjury, which they claimed is a criminal offence.

They invited the court through the preliminary objections they filed to the hearing of the suit to hold that the suit was wrongly commenced by way of originating summons.

They further argued that a criminal case could not be commenced by a way of originating summons. Chief Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, is representing APC in the case.

But Okafor, who is being represented by Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, said he is ready for all of them. He said at the appropriate time, he would show that their applications were misconceived.

The court later adjourned the suit till March 19, this year, while a similar suit by another lawyer, Mr. Max Uzoaka, seeking to disqualify Buhari from contesting the poll was also fixed for same day for hearing.

At the resumed hearing of the cases yesterday, Ozekhome told the court that he served his originating summon dated January 26, 2015 on the APC.

The APC, according to Ozekhome, had responded by filing a counter affidavit while he replied the opposition party on points of law.

On his part, Olanipekun informed the court that he had filed an application seeking to set aside the order made by the presiding judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, which had granted service of originating processes on Buhari by substituted means.

Justice Ademola after hearing an ex parte application of the two different plantiffs, had made an order for the defendants (Buhari and INEC) to be served by substituted means, to wit, publication notices in three national dailies.

The court also granted the prayers of the applicants for Buhari and INEC to abridge time within which to enter appearance in the matter.

However, Olanipekun said he had applications challenging the entirety of the suits and the ex parte order. He argued that the order was wrong since the court was misled into making it based on the applicant’s submission that the matter was an urgent one.

He said the postponement of the general election by six weeks “is an indication that the suit lacks the urgency tag.”

Though Ozekhome told the court that he was yet to receive the application, however, Olanipekun served him in the open court.

On his part, Fagbemi said he had filed an application dated February 13, challenging the jurisdiction of the court on the matter.

He argued that his application is fundamental and therefore should be heard first. Reacting, Ozekhome said that since he was served in court with Buhari’s application opposing the substituted service, the court should take all the applications in one fell swoop.

After considering views of all the counsels in view of the pending applications, the court adjourned to March 19 for further mention. Similarly, in Uzoaka’s suit, Olanipekun urged the court to adjourn to March 19 to enable Buhari file his response to the originating process.

In the substantive suit, Ozoaka’s counsel, Ade Okeaya-Inneh, SAN, is seeking among other reliefs; A declaration that by the combined provisions of Sections 31(1)(2) and (3) of the 2010 Electoral Act as amended and INEC Form CF 001, the 1st defendant is mandatorily obliged by the law to comply strictly with the provisions laid down under the Electoral Act as amended and INEC Form CF 001 as it relates to attaching evidence of the 1st defendant’s birth certificate and evidence of his educational qualifications as required under INEC Form CF 001.

A declaration that by the combined reading of Sections 31(1)(2) (3) and 31 (8) of the Electoral Act, the 1st and 2nd defendants are mandatorily obliged by law to comply strictly with the provisions laid down under the Electoral Act vis-a-vis the filing and submission of INEC Form CF 001, by the 1st defendant attaching evidence of educational qualifications as required under the said INEC Form CF 001 and that non compliance with this condition inherent amounts to an offence under Section 31(8) of the Electoral Act.

A declaration that the curriculum vitae and voter registration card attached by the 1st defendant in his INEC Form CF 001 and submitted to the 2nd defendant as a presidential candidate in 2015 general election is not in conformity with the form prescribed by the Electoral Act/INEC Form CF 001 and is manifestly in contravention of the said Act/INEC Form CF 001 and therefore null and void.

An order declaring as invalid the INEC Form CF 001 as filled by the 1st defendant as being inchoate and manifestly in contravention of the provisions of the Electoral Act/INEC Form 001 as the 1st defendant did not comply with a condition inherent/ precedent in the INEC Form CF 001 submitted to the 2nd defendant, by failing and/or refusing to attach evidence of his birth certificate and educational qualifications which are conditions inherent/ precedent as prescribed in the form.

A declaration that the 1st defendant is not eligible to participate in the 2015 Presidential election for failure to comply with the terms for submission of list of candidate and affidavit of personal particulars of persons seeking election to the office of the president.

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