From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Judgment in a suit filed by Social Democratic Party (SDP) against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been stalled at the Abuja division of the Federal High Court.
Justice Emeka Nwite could not proceed on delivering the judgement, which was earlier scheduled for the day’s business, due to an application filed by INEC.
SDP and Atteng Fred had sued INEC as sole defendant in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/2205/2022.
In the amended originating summons dated Dec. 14, 2022 and filed Dec. 15, 2022 by their team of lawyers, the plaintiffs sought a court declaration that by virtue of Sections 65(2) (b), 106 (d), 177(c) and 187 (1) & (2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), INEC cannot recognise Gokana Geoffrey, who had withdrawn his candidature and resigned his membership from SDP as their candidate for the Rivers South East Senatorial District election.
Besides, they averred that the commission cannot refuse to accept the name of Mr Fred submitted to it as party’s candidate after a validly conducted and monitored primary.
They, therefore, sought an order, directing INEC to allow the party submit Fred’s name as represented by it, following Geoffrey’s withdrawal from the race and his subsequent resignation from the party, among others.
Upon resumed proceeding, counsel to the plaintiffs, Jibrin Jibrin, who appeared with M.M. Ogar, told the judge that the matter was slated for judgment and they were ready.
However, INEC was not represented in the court.
Justice Nwite then said that he was informed about a process dated Dec. 30, 2022 and filed by the electoral umpire.
He said his attention was drawn to it on Jan. 4, while writing the judgment.
He asked if the lawyer had been served but Jibrin said they had not been served with the application.
“We were never served and our position is that the defendant did not file anything,” he said.
Jibrin, who applied for permission to address the court on the issue as it affected the delivery of the judgement, drew the attention of the court to the provision of Section 122(2) (m) of the Evidence Act 2011 (as amended).
He contended that the process was incompetent having been filed out of time in accordance with Order 3, Rules 3 to 4 of the FHC Practice Direction.Om
On issue of non-service of the process on the plaintiffs, he argued that since the court record showed that the said process was never served on them, “the failure to serve them is fatal in that it robs the court of the jurisdiction to reckon with nor consider same.”
Jibrin further argued that as the matter had been slated for judgment, the court should discountenance with the process and proceed to deliver its judgement.
Justice Nwite adjourned the matter until January 30 for ruling
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