By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Monday, slated April 8 to deliver judgment on a suit seeking to invalidate the election of the former Governor of Enugu State, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, into the Senate.
In the pre-election suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1574/2018, it was alleged that Nnamani who contested and won under the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was outside the country when the affidavit he used to secure clearance to contest for Enugu East Senatorial District, was made.
According to the suit that was lodged before the court by the Senatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, the former governor, did not personally swore the affidavit he attached to the Form CF001 he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Cited as 1st and 2nd defendants in the suit were Nnamani and INEC.
Specifically, the APC candidate, is praying the court to among other things, determine: “Whether from a proper interpretation of the provisions of section 117(4) of the Evidence Acts Laws of the Federation, the 1st Defendant does not have a duty to personally appear before the Commission of Oaths to depose to the Sworn Affidavit filed with the 2nd Defendant as part of the legal requirement for the contest of the Senatorial Seat for Enugu Senatorial District of Enugu State.
“Whether the 1st Defendant having not physically and personally sworn the purported affidavit filed with the 2nd Defendant in the presence of the , Commissioner of Oaths in line with the provisions of Section 117(4) of the Evidence Act, is eligible to contest an election for the position of a Senator of the Enugu East Senatorial District of Enugu State.
“Whether the non-deposition of the purported Sworn Affidavit filed by the 1st Defendant with the 2nd Defendant does not amount to automatic disqualification of the 1st Defendant for contravening Section 117(4) of the Evidence Act.
“Whether it is legal for the 2nd Defendant to allow the 1st Defendant to contest an election for the position of a Senator for Enugu East Senatorial District in view of the 1st Defendant not to have personally Sworn the Affidavit filed with the 2nd Defendant before Commission for oaths.
As well as, ” Whether the purported sworn affidavit filed by the 1st Defendant with the 2nd Defendant is not illegal, null, void and of not effect whatsoever”.
Upon determination of the legal questions, the plaintiff, urged the court to among other things, declare that INEC had a duty pursuant to the Electoral Act, not to recognize Nnamani for contravening the provisions of Section 117(4) of the Evidence Act.
Likewise, “A declaration that the purported candidature of the 1st Defendant to the position of a Senator to the Enugu East Senatorial Seat is illegal, null and of no effect whatsoever”.
In a 17-paragraphed affidavit he filed in support of the suit, the plaintiff, averred: “That I know as a fact that the 1st Defendant has been residing in the United States of America for the past 1 year and has not stepped his feet on the shores of this country since his departure.
“That I also known as a fact the 1st Defendant purportedly filed, completed and swore the purported affidavit (Form CF 001) and submitted same to the 2nd Defendant. A copy of the INEC Form CF 001 purported submitted by the 1st Defendant to the 2nd Defendant is hereby marked as Exhibit ‘A’.
“That I am also aware that Exhibit ‘A’ was not marked by the 1st Defendant personally with his mark in the presence of the person before whom it was taken”.
The plaintiff, through his lawyer, Mr. Frank Ikpe, urged the court to summon the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service to produce the travel details of the 1st Defendant.
Meantime, both Nnamani and INEC, on Monday, asked the court to dismiss the suit for want of jurisdiction.
The defendants, through their lawyers, Mr. Obinna Onyia and Tobechukwu Nweke, respectively, argued that the suit had become status barred, having been caught by the 4th Alteration to the 1999 Constitution.
They argued that contrary to section 285(9) of the constitution, the plaintiff, failed to institute the action within 14 days after the said Form CF001 was submitted to INEC.
Besides, INEC contended that the plaintiff failed to adduce any material evidence to prove that the former governor did not personally depose to the affidavit he attached to his Form CF001.
After he had heard from all the parties, Justice Iyang Ekwo, adjourned the matter for judgement.