ABUJA — THE Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, granted accelerated hearing of the suit seeking to remove Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State from office. Justice Nnamdi Dimgba said he would expedite the hearing of the pre-election suit that was filed against Akeredolu by a governorship aspirant of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Dr. Olusegun Abraham, in line with the order of the Supreme Court.
It would be recalled that a five-man panel of justices of the apex court had on March 23, dashed Akeredolu’s hopes to terminate further hearing on the suit challenging the process that led to his emergence as the governorship candidate of the APC in the November 26, 2016, election. The apex court, in a unanimous judgment by a five-man panel of Justices, held that Akeredolu’s contention that the suit ought to have been served on him personally lacked merit. Aside from giving the high court the nod to proceed with the hearing of the substantive suit on its merit, the Supreme Court awarded N500,000 cost against Akeredolu, in favour of Abraham.
Meanwhile, at the resumed sitting on the matter, counsel to the plaintiff, Prof. J. O. Amukwutor, SAN, notified the trial Judge that the apex court had cleared the coast for hearing of the case. He told the court that his client, had before the hearing, filed a motion to amend his Originating Summons. However, Akeredolu’s counsel, Chief Akinolu Olujumi, SAN, who commended the judge for handing-off the case to await the decision of the apex court on the appeal by his client, said he was not served any hearing notice about the resumed hearing.
Olujumi said he got to know about the hearing date through newspaper publications, adding that he was not also furnished with the plaintiff’s motion to amend the suit. He told the court that he had initially refused to accept service of the motion for an amendment, considering that the appeal that was decided by the Supreme Court bordered on the issue of service. In his reply, counsel to the plaintiff insisted that hearing notice was served on counsel to the governor on April 16, while a motion to amend the suit was served on APC on April 21.
Consequently, Justice Dimgba directed that a copy of the relevant processes be served on Akeredolu’s lawyer in the courtroom, even as he fixed June 6 to commence hearing on the substantive amended suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/788/2016. Abraham wants Akeredolu sacked Specifically, Abraham, who was the first runner-up in the governorship primary election APC conducted in Ondo state is praying the court to sack Akeredolu on grounds that he was not validly nominated to participate in the election.
The plaintiff contended that Akeredolu emerged through the aid of fake party delegates, and was illegally declared the winner at the primary that was supervised by the Jigawa State Governor, Abubakar Bagudu, adding that the primary did not conform with the APC Constitution and guidelines. He is, therefore, urging the court to consider all the proof of evidence adduced before it and nullify Akeredolu’s election and declare him as the bonafide winner of the APC governorship ticket. Cited as 1st to 4th defendants in the suit, are the APC, Akeredolu, National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The plaintiff had prior to the governorship poll, sought an interim order of injunction to restrain INEC, either by itself, agents or privies, from recognizing or further recognizing Rotimi Akeredolu as the governorship candidate of APC, pending the hearing and determination of his motion on notice. Hearing of the ex-parte motion was, however, stalled by Akeredolu’s appeal that was dismissed by both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.