By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA— Determined to save his seat, Senator Dino Melaye, who represents Kogi West Senatorial District, yesterday, prayed the Supreme Court to stop Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from going ahead with the process for his recall.
The embattled lawmaker, through his lead counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, raised seven grounds of appeal he urged the apex court to consider and abort plans to recall him from the Senate.
He applied for an order of perpetual injunction restraining INEC, whether by itself, staff, employees, agents, servants and or privies, howsoever, called, from commencing or further continuing with the process of acting on the purported petition presented to it by his constituents.
Melaye further filed a motion for an order staying the execution of the March 16 judgement of the Court of Appeal in Abuja that gave INEC the nod to resume process for his recall.
He begged the court to order parties to maintain the status quo that existed before the judgement was delivered in the appeal marked CA/A/299/M/2018, pending the hearing and final determination of the appeal he lodged before the Supreme Court.
According to him, “unless the execution of the judgement is stayed and/or suspended, the appellant’s/applicant’s appeal already filed would be defeated, rendered nugatory and a situation of complete helplessness foisted on the Supreme Court.”
It will be recalled that INEC had sequel to the verdict of the appellate court, published timetable for Melaye’s recall which is scheduled to commence on April 27.
However, the embattled lawmaker, in his appeal, insisted that “irreparable damage” would be done to him if INEC goes ahead to recall him from the Senate while his appeal is pending before the apex court.
“In the circumstance, the justice of this case requires that the judgement of this court be stayed/suspended and time within which the respondents can conduct the recall process paused, as the respondents can comfortably continue with the process if eventually the appellant/applicant’s appeal at the Supreme Court fails,” he argued.
Specifically, he is praying the apex court set aside the Court of Appeal judgment and to declare the petition purportedly presented to INEC for his recall, as illegal, unlawful, wrongful, unconstitutional, invalid, null, void and of no effect whatsoever.
He also prayed the Supreme Court to declare the recall process INEC initiated against him as illegal and unconstitutional, same having been commenced and conducted on the basis of an invalid petition.
He equally urged the apex court to “declare that the 90 days period as provided for in section 69(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as altered, having elapsed by effluxion of time on the 23rd of September, 2017, the 1st Respondent can no longer validly proceed on the basis of the purported petition for the recall of the Appellant presented to it on the 23rd of June, 2017”.
Melaye maintained that Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law and occasioned a miscarriage of justice against him.
He argued that in line with the principles of fair hearing, his constituents ought to have informed and availed him with copies of their grouse against him before proceeding with the submission of the petition to INEC.
The Appellant further contended that INEC should have upon receipt of the petition, furnished him with a copy to enable him to ascertain the veracity or authenticity of same having purportedly been submitted by his alleged constituents.
“Clearly, the Appellant established through uncontroverted averments in his affidavit in support of the Originating Summons, that there was no basis constitutionally and/or otherwise for his alleged recall apart from political malice, vendatta and bad faith.
“Having clearly established to the satisfaction of the court that the alleged recall was done in bad faith, in breach of the twin pillars of natural justice, the Court of Appeal had the jurisdiction to set the entire process of the recall aside or nullify same”.
Aside INEC, other Respondents in the appeal are the All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief Olowo Cornelius, John D.Anjorin, Mallam Yuzuf Adamu, Mrs Iyabose Owolabi, Afolabi Lydia Olufunke, Sanya Grace Folake, Salihu Abubakar Abdullahi and Micheal Olowolaiyemo (sued for themselves and on behalf of Kogi West Senatorial District Registered Voters).
The appellate court had in a unanimous judgement by three-man panel of Justices, dismissed as grossly lacking in merit, an appeal Melaye lodged to challenge his planned recall.Justice Tunde Awotoye who delivered the lead verdict, resolved all the issues Melaye raised in his appeal, in favour of INEC, saying the suit did not disclose any cause of action.
Melaye had gone before the appellate court to set-aside the September 11, 2017, judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which not only declined to stop the recall process, but okayed INEC to verify signatures of 188,588 registered voters from Kogi West that purportedly signed the petition against him.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the high court had in his verdict, held that Melaye’s legal moves to stop his recall was “hasty, premature and presumptuous.”
The lower court however ordered INEC to furnish the lawmaker with a copy of the petition against him and other relevant documents involved in the recall process.
Nevertheless, frustrated by its inability to reach the lawmaker to serve him the petition, INEC, on September 15, filed an ex-parte motion for leave to dump the documents in front of Melaye’s office at the National Assembly.
Before the ex-parte could be heard, Melaye, through his lawyer, Mr. Nkem Okoro, notified the court that he has lodged the appeal that was dismissed on Thursday.
Consequently, Justice Dimgba handed-off the case, saying he could no longer exercise jurisdiction on the ex-parte motion since his court had already given judgment on the matter.
He asked the parties to take their case before the appellate court.
Meanwhile, in its judgment, the Court of Appeal held that the lower court ought to have struck out Melaye’s suit in its entirety.
The appellate court dismissed the issue of lack of fair hearing that Melaye raised against INEC, stressing that the electoral body was neither a tribunal or a court of law.