THE JUDGMENT OF THE FEDERAL HIGH COURT IN FAVOUR OF SENATOR ARARAUME IS A MOCKERY OF THE NIGERIAN COSNTITUTION AND THE JUDICIARY
The recent Abuja Federal High Court Judgment of the 18th March, 2021, by Honourable Justice Justice Taiwo Taiwo has become another lowest point for our nation’s Judiciary. The Judgment leaves one to wonder how much more the Nigerian Judiciary are willing to allow the Buhari led APC regime to continue making the judiciary a laughing stock in Nigeria.
The news that a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja delivered a Judgment declaring Senator Araraume as the duly nominated candidate of the APC flowing from the Imo North APC Senatorial Primaries conducted on the 3rd day of September, 2020 is an embarrassment, a cacophony, disgrace illegal, unconstitutional and a mockery of the Nigerian Judiciary.
The 18th March, 2021 Federal High Court Judgment in favour of Senator Araraume is not just a direct affront on the 1999 Constitution as amended, but also a direct affront on the Nigerian election judicial process and the Supreme Court’s unquestionable powers as the final arbiter on issues of legal injury between persons commenced at the Federal High Court.
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has divided all legal disputes bothering on elections and nomination of persons into political offices into “Pre-election” and “Post-election” matters. Section 285 (9) of the 1999 Constitution as amended by the Fourth Alteration Act No. 8 of 2017 states that “Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Constitution, every pre-election matter shall be filed not later than 14 days from the date of the occurrence of the event, decision or action complained of in the suit”
On the other hand, Section 133 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2010 states that that “No election and return at an election under this Act shall be questioned in any manner other than by a petition complaining of an undue election or undue return (in this Act referred to as an “election petition) presented to the competent tribunal or Court in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution or of this Act, and in which the person elected or returned is joined as a party”
APC conducted their Primaries for the Imo North Senatorial election on the 3rd day of September, 2020. Aggrieved at the outcome of the primaries, Senator Ifeanyi Araraume filed a suit on the 11th September, 2020 in Suit No. FHC/OW/CS/102/2020 against APC and Frank Ibezim, seeking to be declared winner of the 3rd September, 2020 APC Imo North Senatorial primaries. That suit was filed within 14 days in compliances with Section 285 (9) of the 1999 Constitution as amended by the Fourth Alteration Act No. 8 of 2017. Curiously Senator Araraume withdrew his suit in FHC/OW/CS/102/2020 and applied to be joined in FHC/OW/CS/101/2020 filed by one Lady Uchenna Onyeiwu Ubah against APC, also filed within 14 days of the APC primaries. It was on the basis of the pre-election matter in Suit No. FHC/OW/CS/101/2020 that the Hon. Justice T. G. Ringim of the Federal High Court Owerri in a Judgment dated 18th November, 2020 delivered Judgment declaring Senator Ifeanyi Araraume as the validly nominated candidate of the APC for the Imo North Senatorial Election held on the 4th December, 2020.
Aggrieved by the Federal High Court decision which gave Senator Araraume judgment, Frank Ibezim and Lady Uchenna Onyeiwu Ubah appealed to the Court of Appeal Owerri which gave their decision on the eve of the election on the 4th December, 2020 setting aside and nullifying the Federal High Court decision which declared Senator Ifeanyi Araraume as the validly nominated candidate of the APC for the Imo North Senatorial Bye-election. Having lost at the Court of Appeal, Senator Araraume exhausted his right of appeal in his challenge of the 3rd September, APC primaries for the Imo North Senatorial bye-election at the Supreme Court which on the Friday 5th February, 2021 dismissed his appeal by upholding the decision of the Court of Appeal Owerri which set aside his victory at the Federal High Court.
After the lose at the Supreme Court, Senator Araraume made a desperate move to revive his interest in FHC/OW/CS/102/2020 at the Federal High Court Owerri. Ibezim and his Counsel opposed it in the grounds that the issues he was trying to renew in FHC/OW/CS/102/2020 haD been canvassed up to the Supreme Court in Suit No. FHC/OW/CS/101/2020 and having willingly withdrawn FHC/OW/CS/102/2020, he could not comeback to re-canvass the same issues in the suit he withdrew then knowing both could not exist together. The Owerri Federal Court upheld the argument and refused Senator Araraume’s application to re-list FHC/OW/CS/102/2020 after losing out in Suit No. FHC/OW/CS/101/2020 which he canvassed up to the Supreme Court.
It is condemnable that after exhausting the pre-election challenge or question on the pre-election issue of who is the validly nominated candidate of APC following their 3rd September, 2020 for the Imo North Senatorial primaries, the same Senator Ifeanyi Araraume filed a fresh suit now at the Federal High Court Abuja seeking to be declared the validly nominated candidate of the APC again after the Supreme Court had laid the matter to rest on the 5th February, 2020 and many months after the 5th day of December, 2020 Imo North Senatorial bye-election and the Election Petitions Tribunal commenced hearing of petitions over the election.
It is on the same ground that the Federal High Court Abuja has given judgment declaring a candidate as validly nominated from the 3rd September APC primaries after the Supreme Court had concluded appeals on same question within the constitutional mandatory period of 180 days and 60 days apiece for appeals at the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court had elapsed against Section 285 (10) & (12) of the 1999 Constitution as amended by the Fourth Alteration. What is more is that Senator Araraume filed the action after the 5th February Supreme Court Judgment dismissing his appeal and after the 4th December, 2020 Imo North Senatorial Election had been conducted and concluded.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the suit upon which the Abuja Federal High Court presided over by Hon. Justice Taiwo Taiwo gave Judgment was filed outside the mandatory 14 days period required by the constitution for the challenge of pre-election matters. The Judgment also opens a new case bothering on an issue which has been canvassed by the same parties up to the Supreme Court and finally determined.
This mockery of the Nigerian judiciary should stop and I call on the Chief Justice of the Federation, The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, the NBA, NJC to investigate this widespread abuse of our Courts by desperate politicians and their Counsels forum shopping and levy sanctions where necessary.
Kissinger Ikeowku Esq.
Is the State Legal Adviser, PDP Imo State
Writes from Owerri