By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Friday, fixed September 11 to determine whether or not the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, should continue process for the recall of Senator Dino Melaye.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba adjourned to deliver judgment on two consolidated suits by Melaye and the All Progressives Congress, APC, seeking to stop the recall process that ought to have commenced on July 10.
The two suits marked FHC/ABJ/CS/567/2017 and FHC/ABJ/CS/601/2017, is praying the court to declare that the petition Melaye’s constituents presented to INEC for his recall was illegal, unlawful, wrongful, unconstitutional, invalid, null and void and of no effect in law.
The embattled lawmaker, through his lawyer, Mr. Nkem Okoro, specifically prayed the court for a declaration that the petition purportedly forwarded to the INEC was invalid and of no effect, alleging that it was signed by fictitious, dead and none existing persons in his senatorial district.
Similarly, the APC, through its own lawyer, Mr. S.T. Ologunrisa, SAN, told the court that it was opposed to bid by the electoral body to recall Melaye who is representing Kogi West Senatorial District, on the basis of what it termed “an illegal petition”.
The party asked the court to declare that the recall process initiated vide a purported petition against their sponsored member of the Senate by some of his constituents, pursuant to Section 69 of the 1999 Constitution, was illegal, unlawful and of no effect whatsoever for being contrary and in contravention to the rules of natural justice and constitutionally guaranteed right to fair hearing under section 36 of the 1999 constitution.
APC urged the court to determine whether upon a proper interpretation of the provisions of Section 65(2) (b), 68(1) (g) and 69 of the 1999 Constitution, the 1st plaintiff’s sponsored member Senator Dino Melaye to the Senate is not entitled to a fair hearing before the process of his recall as contemplated by the provisions of the aforesaid section 69 of the 1999 constitution.
To determine whether by the provisions of Sections 68 and 69 of the 1999 constitution, Melaye , the plaintiff’s party’s sponsored member to the Senate can be validly recalled from the Senate upon an invalid petition presented to the chairman of INEC.
As well as to determine whether having regard to the provisions of section 69 of the 1999 constitution, INEC can commence validly the process of conducting referendum for the recall of the plaintiff’s member from the Senate in the absence of a valid and competent petition on the ground that the purported signatories to the alleged petition are either dead, fictitious, nonexistent persons from outside the Kogi West senatorial constituency.
APC lodged the suit alongside twelve chieftains of the party in Kogi State- Alhaji Haddy Ametuo, Hon. Shaibu Osune, S.T Adejo, Comrade Yahaya Ade Ismail, Chief Gbenga Ashagun, Ahovi S. Ibrahim, Ghali ND Usman, Isa Abubakar, I. Molemodile, Abubakr M. Adamu and Daniel Sekpe.
Meanwhile, Justice Dimgba okayed the matter for judgment after all the parties adopted their final arguments, with INEC, through its team of lawyers led by, Mr. Usman Uztaz, SAN and Sulayman Ibrahim, asking the court to dismiss the consolidated suits for want of merit.
INEC contended that under section 69(a) and (b) of the 1999 constitution, as amended, it has 90 days, starting from June 21, to conduct a referendum in line with the approved time table and schedule of action on the petition seeking Melaye’s recall.
It told the court that the recall process is time bound, adding that the 90 days period for the exercise will lapse on September 18.
Likewise, authors of the petition that is seeking Melaye’s recall, Chief Olowo Cornelius John Anjorin and Mallam Yusuf Adamu, who were on the last adjourned date, added as defendants to the suits, prayed the court to dismiss the case and okay the recall process.
The trio, through their lawyer, Chief Anthony Adeniyi, told the court that as Melaye’s constituents, they were no longer have confidence in his ability to give them quality representation at the Senate.
However, five others, Afolabi Lydia Olufunke, Mrs. Iyabose Owolabi, Sanya Grace Folake, Salihu Abubakar Abdullahi and Micheal Olowolaiyemo, who identified themselves as registered voters from Kogi West, prayed the court to abort the entire recall process for being “a waste of time”.
Arguing through their lawyer, Mr. Ponsak Biyan, the five purported registered voters who were previously joined as co-plaintiffs in the case, said they were satisfied with Melaye’s performance in the Senate.
Meantime, while adopting his final brief of argument, Melaye, described himself as “the best legislator” Kogi West has so far produced.
He further adduced death certificates of some of the persons he insisted signed the petition pending against him at INEC.
More so, Melaye urged the court to determine whether by provisions of Sections 68 and 69 of the Constitution, he is entitled to a fair hearing before the process of his recall as envisaged by the provisions of Section 69 of the Constitution can be triggered.
Insisting that he was not availed with a copy of the petition before INEC attempted to kick-start his recall process, Melaye, further prayed the court to determine whether the petition presented to INEC was in compliance with the requirements of the constitution, same being heavily tainted with political malice, bad motive, personal vendetta and bad faith, which were initiated by top politicians in Kogi State, who wield enormous power over his Senatorial constituency.
As well as to determine whether the process of recall as provided for in Section 69 of the constitution can be initiated against him when the number of registered and qualified voters in the constituency who purportedly signed the petition is grossly less than the number required in Section 69(a) of the constitution.