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Court dismisses suit seeking Soludo’s disqualification as Anambra governor-elect

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From Godwin Tsa, Abuja.

The Abuja division of the Federal High Court has dismissed a suit seeking the disqualification of the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof Charles Chukwuma Soludo, as the governor-elect for Anambra State on the platform of All Grand Progressive Alliance (APGA).

In a judgment delivered on Wednesday, in a suit filed by two voters in Anambra, Adindu Valentine and Chukwuebuka Egwudike, Justice Taiwo Taiwo described the suit as frivolous, irritating, baseless and lacking in merit.

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The Judge accused the two plaintiffs of seeking to use the court as a tool to scuttle democracy and awarded a punitive cost of N2M against them to be paid to Soludo and his deputy, Onyeka Ibezim.

The plaintiffs – Adindu Valentine and Egwudike Chukwuebuka had in the suit contended that Soludo provided false information in the affidavit (Form EC9) that he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and should be deemed unqualified to stand for election.

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In the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/711/2021, the plaintiffs claimed that Soludo indicated, in the affidavit, that he was contesting the Aguata 2 Constituency seat when in fact, he was contesting the Anambra governorship seat and his deputy claimed to be contesting Awka constituency instead of Anambra deputy governorship.

Defendants in the suit are INEC, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Soludo and Ibezim.

In their final submission, plaintiffs’ lawyers, A. O. Ijeri and Kelvin Okoko had argued that having indicated the wrong constituency he was contesting, Soludo supplied INEC with false information, violated extant legal provisions and ought to be disqualified.

“The constitution has made a state a constituency in relation to the governorship election, but in this case, the third defendant (Soludo) named Aguata 2 as the constituency he is contesting,” Ijeri said.

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But in his judgment, Justice Taiwo held the two plaintiffs failed woefully to establish how the alleged wrong in the constituency affected or misled them as voters and in any other capacity.

The Judge said that apart from the alleged wrongful disclosure of constituency, Soludo as the 3rd defendant made it clear in other parts of his affidavit on oath that he was contesting the Anambra governorship election while Ibezim as 4th defendant also indicated in other parts of his affidavit that he was contesting deputy governorship.

“From the processes filed in this suit and which I have carefully perused, the two plaintiffs did not convince the court on how they were misled by the information.

“No aspects of the 1999 Constitution as amended or any part of the Electoral Act 2010 compel 3rd and 4th defendants (Soludo and Ibezim) to name constituency as a condition for qualification to stand for election.

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“Lawyers as ministers in the temple of justice should always counsel politicians against rushing to court with frivolous suits that will achieve no purpose than to waste the precious time of the court.

“As a matter of fact, I am yet to come to terms with the purpose this suit is to serve. This suit is not reasonable.

“Giving false information is a criminal offence and prove of an allegation of supplying false information must be beyond a reasonable doubt.

“It is high time Nigerians come together to deepen democracy and not to use frivolous suits to stagnate it and this is in our own interest.

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Justice Taiwo who wondered the motive behind the suit noted with dismay that apart from the alleged wrongful disclosure of constituencies, no other aspects of the laws was alleged to have been breached by Soludo and Ibezim including their educational qualifications.

Lead counsel to APGA and Soludo, Dr Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) had argued that the suit was without merit and that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear it.

Ikpeazu contended that error in an affidavit cannot be a basis to disqualify a candidate from the election, noting that the false information contemplated in Section 31 of the Electoral Act was criminal. in nature.

He further argued that the false information claimed by the plaintiff was not among the grounds stated in the Constitution for the disqualification of a candidate.

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“False information, as envisaged in section 31 of the Electoral Act is criminal in nature. Section 31 does not deal with error, but a deliberate effort to steal a match and to misrepresent.

The contention that the 14 days required under Section 285(9) of the Constitution, should accrue from the date the first respondent (INEC) received those affidavits, has no supporting foundation,” he said.

Ikpeazu urged the court to uphold the preliminary objection filed by his clients and dismiss the case.

Counsel to Ibezim, C. Mbaeri argued in a similar vein and prayed the court to uphold his objection and dismiss the suit.

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Counsel to INEC, Bashir Abubakar said his client did not file any process in the case and has elected to leave the decision at the discretion of the court.

Justice Taiwo however disagreed with Ikpeazu that the suit was statute barred as at the time it was filed while he also held that the court had jurisdiction to hear the case as he did.

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Oil theft: Wike tasks traditional rulers to dislodge illegal refinery operators

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From TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has urged traditional rulers in the State not to allow illegal crude oil artisanal refining (kpo-fire) activities to take place in their domains anymore.

Governor Wike gave the charge at a meeting he had with traditional rulers in the State at the Banquet Hall of Government House in Port Harcourt, yesterday.

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The meeting was also attended by heads of the security agencies and chairmen of the 23 Local Government Areas of the State.

Governor Wike told the traditional rulers that those involved in illegal refinery activities are sabotaging the national economy.

He regretted that the Federal Government which controls the oil industry and the security agencies has been indifferent to the soot pandemic and the damage it is inflicting on the health of the residents of Rivers State.

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He expressed: “I should think that the way federal government intends to fight insurgency, is the way they should fight illegal oil bunkering, because it is a sabotage on the national economy. Very big sabotage. It affects our own revenue.

“If we are supposed to produce 2 million barrels for example, we are now producing 1.2 million. And in that 1.2 million barrels, it affects Rivers State because we are not producing up to the number we are supposed to produce, and then we can’t get the money to do whatever you want us to do.”

The governor also said illegal crude oil refinery activities constitute environmental hazard capable of causing cancer related illnesses in the State.

According to him, his primary concern is to ensure that the health of residents of the State is not jeopardised.

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“It is the responsibility of the Federal Government to see how this thing can be stopped. As I speak to you, nobody has called me from the Federal Government to say how they can support us. But that is not my business.

“My business is the health of my people. I will not because the Federal Government is not interested to stop it, therefore, my people should die. If everybody dies, who are you going to govern?”

The governor, therefore, urged the traditional rulers not to be less concerned about the activities of illegal oil refinery operators, but to frantically mobilise members of their Community Development Committees (CDC) and the leadership of their youth groups to work in synergy to dislodge them from their domain.

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Governor Wike berated the Nigerian Police for being complicit in the criminal act of illegal oil bunkering, which is why they are not very committed to the fight to stop the operations.

He also described as embarrassing how officers of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) have continued to be complicit in the act and shamelessly be involved in sabotaging the national economy.

He said: “I don’t know how I can be a security officer sent to a place to protect people, to protect whatsoever belongs to the Federal Government, at the same time, I’m involved in sabotaging the national economy. I don’t understand how I can wear uniform and be involved in that. If they do not want to support us, we have no choice but to expose all the atrocities that is going on in this State.”

Governor Wike said he recently received intelligence that an Army major was providing exit services to illegally refined petroleum products and he had to send security personnel to thwart this.

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“In fact, I had to send my special security to go and intercept a major who was trying to escort some of these illegal products.”

The governor declared that his administration will not hesitate to expose any security personnel involved in such illegal refinery activities.

Governor Wike frown at the inability of the Nigeria Police to arrest Chief W. J. Wocha, Fubara Ohaka and other members of the illegal bunkering cartel operating at Ibaa community in Emohua Local Government Area .

He said the names of all indicted persons would be published soon and they will be declared wanted.

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Policeman, businessman killed as youth gangs clash in Minna

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One policeman and a businessman have been killed as a result of gang fights which has become a norm within Minna, the Niger State capital, as the government and security agencies seem to be unable to find a solution to these fights that have led to the loss of lives and properties.

The fight is usually between youths of different areas who choose the streets of Minna as their battlefield.

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Security personnel were able to quell the clash which started on Thursday between the youth of Limawa and Ogbomosho areas.

On Friday morning, they regrouped and disrupted the Minna central area, dispersing business owners who had to lock their shops and scamper to safety.

Our correspondent gathered that in the process of the clash, one of the traders whose shop is located along Ogbomosho Road was stabbed and later died in the hospital.

There are conflicting reports on how the policeman died. While some said he was mistakenly killed by his colleague, others said it was the clashing youths that killed him.

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The policeman was said to have been among those drafted to the area to control the clash and protect other citizens.

The majority of the shops in the area have remained closed.

Gang clashes have become frequent in Minna, making residents and commuters live in fear as the fights occur on major roads with the gang members fighting with stones and knives.

Residents usually get attacked, injured, have their goods stolen while windshields of cars get shattered in the course of such fights.

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A call put through to the Niger State Police Command Public Relations Officer, DSP Wasiu Abiodun, went unanswered as of the time of filing this report.

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