By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA- The Supreme Court, on Thursday, declined to sack Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State from office on the premise that he was not eligible to contest the July 14, 2018, governorship election that he eventually won.
The apex court, in a unanimous judgment by a five-man panel of Justices, dismissed the suit that was lodged by a former governor of the state, Mr. Segun Oni, who lost the gubernatorial ticket of the All Progressive Congress, APC, to Fayemi.
Oni who came second in the primary election had among other things, contended that Fayemi was not legally qualified to take part in the contest having failed to firstly resign his position in President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet.
Fayemi won the party’s primary poll on May 12, 2018, at a time he still held sway as the Minister of Mines and Steel Development.
He officially resigned the position on May 30, 2018, about 18 days after he had secured the APC governorship ticket with a total of 941 votes as against 481 votes that were polled by his closest rivalry, Oni.
However, in the suit he filed shortly after the primary election, Oni, argued that constitutionally, Fayemi, ought to have relinquished his Ministerial position, at least 30 days to the primary poll.
He urged the court to among other things, determine whether or not Fayemi’s action was not in gross violation of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, as well as APC Guidelines.
Besides, he argued that Fayemi was previously indicted by a Judicial Commission of Inquiry that was constituted by the state government under former Governor Ayodele Fayose.
The Panel’s White Paper which indicted Fayemi and banned him from holding public office for 10 years, was subsequently quashed by a Federal Capital Territory High Court at Bwari.
Aside Fayemi and APC, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, were cited as Respondents in Oni’s suit.
Meanwhile, both the Federal High Court in Ekiti State and the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, dismissed Oni’s case.
Dissatisfied with decisions of the lower courts, the former governor, took his case before the Supreme Court where he also lost on Thursday.
In the judgement that was delivered by Justice Amiru Sanusi, the apex court held that the suit had become status barred.
The court equally held that Oni’s suit was caught up by section 285 of the 1999 Constitution, which made it mandatory that all pre-election cases must be filed within 14 days after the issue in dispute occurred.
Justice Sanusi noted that from records before the Supreme Court, the appellant lodged his case 42 days after the cause of action arose, thereby making it legally incompetent to be adjudicated upon.
Consequently, the apex court dismissed the suit.
Specifically, Oni had urged the court to determine, “Whether by virtue of All Progressives Congress constitution and particularly Articles 2 and 5 of All Progressive Congress 2014 Guidelines for the nomination of candidates for public office as applicable to the A.P.C Governorship primaries conducted on the 12th May, 2018, the 1st Defendant being a serving member of the Federal Executive and Federal Minister of Solid Minerals, Mines and Steel Development having not resigned his appointment as a member of Federal Executive and Minister of Solid Mineral, Mines and Steel Development, at all or at least 30 days to the said primaries election of 12th May, 2018 was qualified to contest and participate in the said All Progressive Congress Governorship primaries of 12th May, 2018 as an aspirant in that election”.
As well as, “Whether by virtue of All Progressive Congress Constitution and particularly Articles 2 and 5 of All Progressive Congress 2014 Guidelines for the nomination of candidates for public office as applicable to the A.P.C Governorship primaries conducted on the 12th May, 2018, at Damilek Event Centre, Ado-Ekiti for the purpose of determining or nominating the 2nd Defendant candidate for the 12th July Ekiti State Governorship election, the 1st Defendant having being indicted by Rtd. Hon. Justice Oyewole Judicial Panel of Enquiry was qualified to contest and participate in the said All Progressives Congress Governorship primary of 12th May, 2018 as an aspirant in that election.”
He had among other things, sought for: “A declaration that the claimant (Oni) having scored 481 votes which is the majority of lawful and valid votes at the 2nd Defendant (APC) the 12th May, 2018 A.P.C Governorship primaries election for the purpose of determining the 2nd Defendant’s candidate for the 14th July 2018 election for the office of Governor Ekiti State is the person that was validly nominated by the 2nd Defendant for the 14th July, 2018 election for the office of Governor, Ekiti state.”