By Kunle Olasanmi, Abuja –
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, has dismissed a suit filed by Senator Dino Melaye, representing Kogi West senatorial district in the National Assembly, seeking to stop the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from initiating recall process against him from the National Assembly,
Justice Dimgba said in his judgement that Melaye’s complaints are “hasty, premature and presumptuous” and therefore ordered the INEC to go ahead with its planned verification exercise.
Melaye had among other reliefs 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 asked 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.
The court, after listening to submissions by counsel said there was no merit in most of the complaints brought before the court by Melaye which bordered on “fair hearing.”
The court held that contrary to the position of Melaye, the constituents who wrote the petition to INEC seeking his recall are neither under any duty to serve him with a copy of the petition nor offer him an opportunity to defend himself.
“I do not believe that the petitioners have the duty to serve the plaintiff with a copy of the petition. The duty of the constituents is to write and submit their petition to the electoral body.
“There is no provision in Sections 68 and 69 of the Constitution that provides the scope for the writers of the petition to inform the plaintiff of plans to recall him or for him to come and clear himself of allegations levelled against him,” the court noted.
Whereas the court observed that in the United States, there is no provision for recall of an elected official, Justice Dimgba said, “The makers of our Constitution decided to make ‘recall option’ available with all its inherent dangers”.
The court insisted that unlike in impeachment process, “Fair hearing is not an option in recall process.”
Consequently, the trial judge held that the only option available for Melaye, is for him to go through the verification process to be conducted by INEC.
The court ordered INEC to serve Melaye with the copy of the recall petition, schedule of signatures attached to the petition and full list of persons in support of the recall process.
According to the court, “it is important that the plaintiff be equipped with the relevant materials and processes he needs to prepare for the verification exercise.”
On the 90 days’ time limit set for the recall process, the court said it was doubtful of the date beginning from June 23, 2017, saying even if it existed, the 90 days paused on July 6, 2017 when the court made an interim order on the suit.
“Ordinarily, the 90 days begins today that this pronouncement has been made,” the court said.
Therefore, Justice Dimgba ordered that subject to the service of these documents on Melaye, “The INEC shall proceed with the conduct of the verification of signatories in support of the plaintiff’s recall from the senate.”
In addition, the court held that it is only when the plaintiff notices any infraction, fake signatures or names of dead persons during the verification exercise that he can approach the court to seek redress.
Earlier, the court dismissed INEC’s preliminary objection to the suit.
INEC had claimed that the amended originating summon dated 7th August, but filed on the 8th, “is incongruous and grossly incompetent having been filed contrary to Order 3 Rule 9 and Order 17 Rules 4, 5 of the Federal High Court Procedure Rules.
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