A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Apo has dismissed a suit that sought to disqualify Adamawa Governor Mohammed Jibrilla Bindow from contesting Saturday’s governorship election.
The Incorporated Trustees of Kingdom Human Rights Foundation International had, in the suit, marked FCT/CV/518/2018, alleged that Bindow supplied false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in his INEC Form CF001 by purporting to have sat for the West African Examination Council (WAEC), in June, 1983 and possess General Certificate of Education (GCE) issued by the examination body.
The group, while urging the court disqualify Bindow, accused him of falsely declaring his educational qualification and date of birth for the purpose of nomination/election into the office of Governor of Adamawa State for the 2019 general elections.
In a judgment on Monday, Justice Olukayode Adeniyi, partially upheld the preliminary objection raised against the suit by the Governor and declined jurisdiction.
Justice Adeniyi held that the High Court of the FCT lacked the territorial jurisdiction to inquire into whether or not the information submitted by somebody who seeks to contest election in Adamawa State was false or not.
Justice Adeniyi said since the information Bindow supplied to INEC were published in Adamawa State, as required under Section 31(3), the cause of action could be said to have accrued in Adamawa, where the plaintiff game about the published information.
He said it was an abuse of court process and an act of forum shopping for the plaintiff to have travelled all the way to the FCT to challenge an alleged infraction that took place in Adamawa State, where available courts could have safely dealt with issues raised.
The judge agreed with the plaintiff that it possessed the necessary legal right to institute the suit, although it is a corporate personality.
He added: “It is therefore my potion that the capacity of the claimant to pursue this case is provided in Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act, which says ‘any person,’but did not define the word ‘any person.’
Relying on Section18(1) of the Interpretation Act, the judge said: “this court is not in doubt that the claimant (plaintiff) qualifies as a corporate personality,” and proceeded to “hold that the claimant is vested with the legal capacity to institute this suit.”
He however noted that there was a lacuna in the provision of Section 285(14) of the 4th Alteration to the Constitution, which limits the class of people, who can file pre-election cases to an aspirant and a political party.
The judge noted that, since Section 31(5) allows any person to sue where it is discovered that a candidate provide false information to INEC, Section 285(14) of the Constitution should be made to include other classes of people or institutions.
He said the legislature should consider another amendment to Section 285(14) of to extend the category of people to commence pre-election matters to accommodate the right granted any person under section 31(5) of the Electoral Act
The judge also held that the plaintiff made out a reasonable cause of action to entitle it to be heard by the court.
Justice Adeniyi however held that the suit was statute barred because it was filed outside the 14 days provided under Section 285(9) of the Constitution.
The judge noted that, while INEC acknowledged the receipt of Bindow’s Form CF001 on October 25, 2018, the plaintiff filed the suit on December 12, 2018, a length of time which exceeded the 14 days provided under 285(9).
Justice Adeniyi, having partially upheld the notice of objection and held that the his court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the suit, proceeded to dismiss it.
He however took time to consider the substantive suit. And after analysing all the evidence provided by the plaintiff, held that it failed to prove it’s allegation of certificate forgery and age falsification made against Bindow.
The judge said the plaintiff claimed Bindow forged his academic certificate, but failed to lead evidence to support same.
He also was of the view that the plaintiff failed to show that the alleged age falsification has disqualified Bindow from attaining the 35 years minimum age allowed in the Constitution for a candidate to be qualified to contest the governorship post.