The Federal High Court sitting in Ado-Ekiti on Monday dismissed the suit filed by former Ekiti State Governor Segun Oni challenging the eligibility of the incumbent, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, to contest the July 14 governorship election.
Delivering the judgment of the court, Justice Uche Agomoh held that Oni’s Originating Summons challenging Fayemi’s eligibility to stand as the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate is “completely lacking merit.”
Defendants in the case are Fayemi (1st), APC (2nd) and Independent National Electoral Commission (3rd). The suit commenced at the Federal High Court, Abuja but was later referred to the Ado-Ekiti Division of the Court. The court held that Fayemi was eligible to contest as a sitting Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, because he was not in the category of public officers envisaged by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and the APC Election Guidelines to resign from office before contesting. The court further ruled that Fayemi was qualified to run having been validly nominated as the flag bearer by his party, the APC from the primary conducted on 12th May, 2018. Fayemi won the primary polling 941 votes to defeat Oni who garnered 481 votes and thirty two other candidates.
In filing the suit on June 21, 2018, Oni averred that Fayemi was not qualified to contest claiming that he did not resign from office as Minister of Mines and Steel Development thirty days before the APC primary election. Oni also said Fayemi was not eligible by virtue of his indictment by the Justice Silas Oyewole-led Judicial Commission of Inquiry empanelled by former Governor Ayo Fayose.
Justice Agomoh held that Section 318 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 which defines who is a public officer, was not applicable to Fayemi as a serving Minister. The judge held that the provision did not refer to the Office of the Minister of the Federal Republic adding that Oni also failed provide the court with evidence that Fayemi did not resign from office as he claimed in his (Oni’s) Originating Summons. She further held that Fayemi is not in the category of officers of the party (APC) that must resign before contesting for an elective public officer as claimed by Oni. Justice Agomoh refused to grant Oni’s prayer that Fayemi be declared as ineligible to run for governor on the basis of his purported indictment by the Justice Silas Oyewole-led Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the Ayo Fayose administration.
The judge held that her court does not have the legal right to sit on appeal of a case that had been determined by a court of coordinate jurisdiction as the case had been dismissed by a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court.
“There must be evidence that he was served and called upon to defend himself. “Looking at all evidences before me filed by parties therein, I am not satisfied that this condition was met in this case. I am therefore of the view that there is no condition recognizable by law on the basis of which the first defendant can be disqualified from contesting the primary of the second defendant held on the 5th and 12th of May, 2018 and I so hold.”
Ruling on whether Fayemi was a party office holder as alleged by Oni who must resign at least thirty days before running for governor, the court ruled that evidence before it proved contrary. The Court disagreed with Oni that Fayemi was a member of fourteen organs of the party including National Convention, Board of Trustees, National Caucus and Zonal Committee. Justice Agomoh also referred to Article 14 of the party (APC) Constitution which spells out party’s office holders saying there was no proof that Fayemi was a party office holder.
“I have carefully examined the constitution of the party and unable to see any of the offices the claimant (Oni) has suggested that the defendant (Fayemi) is holding. Therefore I have found out that the defendant (Fayemi) is not a party office holder which would have made him to resign prior to the primary election. Therefore my finding is that the first defendant has not been proved to be a party office holder which would have made him to resign prior to the primary of the third defendant,” the judge further held.
On Oni’s claim that Fayemi did not resign as Minister at least thirty days before the primary, Justice Agomoh ruled that the governor did not violate Section 318 (1) of the Constitution, She held: “Having critically reviewed the above provisions, I am of the firm view that it is inapplicable in the circumstances of this case.
“Section 318 of the Constitution defines what being in public service is, nowhere in the said provision makes reference to the Office of the Minister which is what first defendant was occupying. The guideline in the provision says the person to be affected must be emploed in public service, I do not believe that the Minister of the Federal Republic is employed in the public service as contemplated by the guidelines. A Minister though a public office holder, is simply appointed at the pleasure of the President and confirmed by the National Assembly he can therefore be removed at (the) will (of President). Unlike an employee of public service, who has a letter of employment.
Since he (Oni) contended that the first defendant is an employee of public service, he who alleges must prove.
“The burden is on the person (Oni) to produce before this court the employment letter of the first defendant (Fayemi).”
Delivering the final verdict, Justice Agomoh held: “Consequent upon my findings above, I am of the firm view that this Originating Summons is completely lacking in merit and is hereby dismissed.”