A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has struck out the alleged certificate forgery suit against the Adamawa State governor, Senator Muhammad Jibrilla Bindow for want of jurisdiction.
Besides, Justice Inyang Ekwo held that the suit which sought the disqualification of Governor Bindow as a candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) for the last governorship election has become an academic exercise.
The plaintiff, Manhood Ahmed Modi, an in law to President Muhammadu Buhari had approached the court in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1377/2018 to disqualify the incumbent governor of Adamawa State, Mohammed Umaru Jibrilla from participating in the 2019 Adamawa governorship election.
He specifically sought an order disqualifying the governor from contesting the position of the governor of Adamawa State and to be adjudged the rightful candidate of the APC for the said general election..
Also joined in the suit as defendants were: the All Progressive Congress, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC): West African Examination Council (WAEC) and the Registered Trustees of Centre for Reform and Public Advocacy.
But in his preliminary objection, Uche argued that the said governorship election had taken place and both his client and his political party lost the election.
The plaintiff, also a chieftain of the All Progressive Congress, had alleged that Governor Bindow supplied false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in his INEC Form CF 001 by purporting to have sat for the West African Examination Council (WAEC), in June, 1983 and posses General Certificate of Education (GCE) issued by the examination body.
The plaintiff further accused the governor 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.
Delivering his judgment yesterday, Justice Ekwo upheld the objection raised agianst the suit by counsel to the governor, Chief Chris Uche (SAN) to the effect that the suit has become an academic exercise.
Justice Ekwo further declined jurisdiction to adjudicate on the subject matter of litigation.
The court agreed with Uche that “by viture of section 285(13) of the 1999, constitution, (4th Alteration 2017), the suit has become an academic exercise.”
The court held that “the general election of the governor of Adamawa state the subject-matter of the suit and which election the plaintiff sought to have the 1st defendant disqualified from contesting took place on March 2019.
” From the above circumstances, it would amount to a vain exercise for this court to exercise the jurisdiction to hear and determine this case, as none of the reliefs claimed can reasonably be granted.
” I consequently declined jurisdiction to try this suit, the same having become an academic exercise by virtue of section 285(13) of the 1999 constitution (4the Alteration 2019).
“I make an order striking out this suit. The preliminary objection succeeds and I will not go into the substantive matter.” Justice Ekwo held.
The group urged the court to declare that the act and conduct of governor Bindow in declaring under oath to have attended Government Secondary School, Miango, Plateau State and issued with General Certificate of Education in June, 1983 by WAEC as well as falsely swearing to have been born on different dates of birth, constitute giving false information under section 31(5) of the Electoral Act, 2010 as well as criminal act of perjury contrary to the Penal Code Act.
In addition, the group is pressing for an order of court declaring Bindow as ineligible to contest for or elected into office ad the governor of Adamawa state or hold any elective position in the country, on the basis of the alleged forgery or false educational qualification and declaration of age made to INEC as contained in his Form CF 001.
However, in his statement of defence filed by his counsel, Chief Chris Uche ( SAN), governor Bindow told the court that he won the 2018 primary election of the APC held on October 9, in Yola, Adamawa State which was conducted in full compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010, and the guidelines of the party with a whooping 193, 656 votes as against the paltry 15, 738 votes scored by the plaintiff.
That rather than accept defeat with the spirit of sportsmanship, the plaintiff has resorted to filling the suit and sponsoring similar suits as a smear campaign against him.
He submitted through his counsel that after declaring him winner of the party primary, the APC dully forwarded his name to INEC as its candidate for the governorship election of Adamawa State.
According to Bindow, the INEC in the exercise of its constitutional and statutory duties received and accepted his name as the APC candidate for the 2019 governorship election for Adamawa State.
That the complaints of the plaintiff in the suit arise from his woeful failure to secure the governorship ticket of the APC at the said primary election and his suit is merely an intra- party dispute.
On whether he possessed the requisite qualification to contest for the governorship position, Bindow said he is educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent and that in submitting Form CF 001 for 2019 election, he submitted all documents required by law and does not need to submit and WAEC certificate.
That he is constitutionally qualified to contest the 2019 general election to the office of governor of Adamawa, the age qualification whereof is 35 years and that he is above 35 years of age.
That he did not present any false or forged certificates as he has the requisite educational qualifications to contest in the forthcoming elections for the office of governor of Adamawa State, and there is no compulsory provision for the attachment of any of the educational qualifications of a candidate by the INEC Form CF 001.
That he did never submitted any West African Examination Council (GCE) Certificate with serial Number SG488238A and candidate Examination Number 20623/055 to INEC and shall put the plaintiff to prove his false allegation.
He never falsified, distorted or forged any certificate whatsoever and specifically did not falsify /distort/forge the said certificate with serial Number SG488238A and candidate Examination Number 20623/055.
That the information/documents contained in his INEC Form CF 001 for the 2019 governorship election submitted to INEC on October 25, 2018 are true and correct to the best of his knowledge and information.
He urged the court to hold that the suit is statute barred as the information contained in his INEC Form CF 001 was submitted to INEC on October 25, 2018.
That the plaintiff had 14 days from the date of submission of the alleged false information to institute this action.
That the allegations of falsification, forgery of certificates and perjury made by the plaintiff against him in this suit are criminal.
Court lacks jurisdiction, suit constitutes a gross abuse of court process, the suit is neither founded on section 31(5) nor section 87(9) of the Electoral Act, 2000.
The reliefs sought by the plaintiff are not grantable under section 31(5) or (6) of the Electoral Act, 2000 and are such that should be sought before Election Petition Tribunal.