From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal brought by former minister of state for education, Prof. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, seeking to void the participation of Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 25 presidential election.
Justice John Okoro, leading four other Justices of the court, dismissed the appeal after appellants’ counsel had applied to withdraw it.
It was the position of the apex court that the appeal by Nwajiuba and a group, the Rights for All International (RAI), was statute barred and had become academic.
The appellants had among others, urged the Supreme Court to void the primaries that produced Tinubu and Abubakar emerged as candidates of their political parties on grounds of alleged corruption.
The Abuja division of the Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal had equally dismissed the suit before the appellants headed to the apex court.
Nwajiuba had, in his suit before the Federal High Court, sought among others the voiding of Tinubu’s candidacy on the grounds that he and his part, the All Progressives Congress (APC) allegedly failed to disclose the source of the N100 million he paid for the nomination and expression of interest forms, relying on the provision of section 84(13) of the Electoral Act 2022.
In the suit with No: FHC/ABJ/CS/1114/2022, Nwajiuba prayed the court, among others, to declare him as the presidential candidate of the APC on the grounds that he was the only aspirant who disclosed the source of the N100m he paid to toe the party for his nomination and expression of interest forms.
They listed as defendants in the suit are Tinubu, APC and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In a judgment on November 23, 2022 Justice Zainab Abubakar of the Federal High Court, Abuja upheld that preliminary objection filed by the defendants – Tinubu and APC – and held that Nwajiuba’s suit was statute barred by virtue of the provisions of section 285(9) of the 1999 Constitution.
Nwajiuba appealed the decision at the Court of Appeal in Abuja, and in its judgment on February 24, 2013, a three-member panel of the court dismissed the appeal and affirmed the judgment of the Federal High Court.
The Court of Appeal held that the trial court rightly held that it lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit as the suit was filed outside the statutorily mandated and allowed period of 14 days.
It noted that appeal is a process of rehearing a case, and the trial court, having been robbed of jurisdiction, the Court of Appeal lacks the jurisdiction to entertain it.