The All Progressive Congress, (APC), on Monday, persuaded the Federal High Court in Abuja to consolidate two suits that are seeking to stop the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from going ahead with the process for the recall of Senator Dino Melaye.
The party, through its lawyer, Mr. Olatunji Atoyebi, told the court that it was opposed to bid by the electoral body to recall Melaye who is representing Kogi West Senatorial District, on the basis of “an illegal petition”.
It drew attention of the court to a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/601/2017, which it earlier lodged with a view to stopping any move by INEC to sack Melaye from the Senate.
Aside APC, other plaintiffs behind the said pending suit were Alhaji Haddy Ametuo, Hon. Shaibu Osune, S.T Adejo, Comrade Yahaya Ade Ismail, Chief Gbenga Ashagun, Ahovi S. Ibrahim, Ghali ND Usman, Isa Abubakar, I. Molemodile, Abubakr M. Adamu and Daniel Sekpe.
The party urged the court to consolidate the suit which was originally adjourned to be heard after vacation, with the one marked FHC/ABJ/CS/567/2017, which Melaye personally filed to challenge his planned recall.
Justice John Tsoho had previously adjourned hearing on both suits till September.
However, following an application by INEC, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba who is sitting as a vacation Judge, on July 27, abridged the hearing date to August.
Consequently, APC, at the resumed sitting on Monday, applied for merger of the two legal actions which it said were in search same principal reliefs.
Following a no objection stance by INEC lawyer, Mr.Sulayman Ibrahim, and Melaye’s lawyer, Mr. Nkem Okoro, Justice Dimgba granted the application, saying it was “a proper thing to do”.
Meanwhile, the court, in a separate ruling, joined three persons that wrote the petition for Melaye’s recall, as INEC’s co-defendants in the consolidated suit.
Justice Dimgba held that the applicants- Chief Olowo Cornelius John Anjorin and Mallam Yusuf Adamu- having identified themselves as Melaye’s constituents and authors of the contested petition, ought to be joined as interested parties in the matter.
“At the heart of the litigation is the representation of Kogi West in the Senate. As well as an attempt by constituents to recall their Senator in a process being driven by the defendant, INEC.
“Questions 2, 3, 4, and some of the principal reliefs sought by the plaintiff, attacked the competence and validity of the petition upon which the recall was based.
“I am of the view that this applicants have shown interest warranting the court to join them as defendants”, the Judge held.
He dismissed Melaye’s contention that the applicants neither exhibited their voter’s card to prove that they were indeed electorates from Kogi West, nor attached a copy of the petition to the joinder-motion that was moved by their lawyer, Chief Anthony Adeniyi.
Similarly, the court also allowed five persons, Afolabi Lydia Olufunke, Mrs. Iyabose Owolabi, Sanya Grace Folake, Salihu Abubakar Abdullahi and Micheal Olowolaiyemo, who identified themselves as registered voters from Kogi West, to join the case as co-plaintiffs with Melaye and the APC.
Justice Dimgba maintained that presence of all the applicants in the matter would assist the court in the effectual disposition of the case.
Before the consolidated suit was adjourned till Friday for hearing, Melaye got leave of the court to amend his Originating Summons.
The court also gave INEC the nod to raise supplementary issues against the amended suit.
The commission had applied for expeditious determination of the suit, contending that under section 69(a) and (b) of the 1999 constitution, as amended, it has 90 days, starting from June 21, to conduct a referendum in line with the approved time table and schedule of action on the petition seeking Melaye’s recall.
It told the court that the recall process is time bound, adding that the 90 days period for the exercise will lapse on September 18.
The Commission also queried the legal propriety of a restraining order the court issued on July 6, which stopped Melaye’s recall process.
Melaye had in his suit, prayed the court to declare that the petition his constituents presented to INEC for his recall was illegal, unlawful, wrongful, unconstitutional, invalid, null and void and of no effect in law.
He prayed the court for a declaration that the petition purportedly forwarded to the INEC was invalid and of no effect, alleging that it was signed by fictitious, dead and none existing persons in his senatorial district.
Likewise, the APC, in its own suit, asked the court to declare that the recall process initiated vide a purported petition against their sponsored member of the Senate by some of his constituents, pursuant to Section 69 of the 1999 Constitution, is illegal, unlawful and of no effect whatsoever for being contrary and in contravention to the rules of natural justice and constitutionally guaranteed right to fair hearing under section 36 of the 1999 constitution.
APC urged the court to determine whether upon a proper interpretation of the provisions of Section 65(2) (b), 68(1) (g) and 69 of the 1999 Constitution, the 1st plaintiff’s sponsored member Senator Dino Melaye to the Senate is not entitled to a fair hearing before the process of his recall as contemplated by the provisions of the aforesaid section 69 of the 1999 constitution.
To determine whether by the provisions of Sections 68 and 69 of the 1999 constitution, Melaye , the plaintiff’s party’s sponsored member to the Senate can be validly recalled from the Senate upon an invalid petition presented to the chairman of INEC.
As well as to determine whether having regard to the provisions of section 69 of the 1999 constitution, INEC can commence validly the process of conducting referendum for the recall of the plaintiff’s member from the Senate in the absence of a valid and competent petition on the ground that the purported signatories to the alleged petition are either dead, fictitious, nonexistent persons from outside the Kogi West senatorial constituency.