• Tue. Apr 20th, 2021

Ondo 2020: Lawyer seeks disqualification of Agboola as ZLP guber candidate

ByOjuasha

Oct 6, 2020

Few days to the governorship election in Ondo state, an Akure based Lawyer, Femi Emmanuel Emodamori, has instituted a Suit at the Ondo State High Court, seeking the disqualification the Z.L.P candidate for the Ondo State Governorship Election, Hon. Alfred Agboola Ajayi, for allegedly submitting forged certificates to INEC to contest the Election.

The lawyer had recently obtained the leave of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja for an order of Mandamus to compel INEC to publish the personal particulars of the ZLP candidate.

In an Originating Summons with Suit number AK/……./2020 filed by his counsel, Ifedayo I. Olanipekun Esq., Mr. Emodamori is seeking the following reliefs:

A DECLARATION that having regard to the provisions of Sections 182(1)(j) and 285 (13) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), Section 141 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) and the recent Supreme Court decision in MODIBBO V. USMAN (2020) 3 NWLR (PT1712) 470 as well as similar decided authorities, the 1st Defendant presented a false/forged certificate or attestation to the 3rd Defendant in his INEC Form EC9 which he personally verified on oath, by stating that he had fulfilled all the requirements for qualification to be elected as the candidate of the 2nd Defendant for the Ondo State Governorship Election of 10th October, 2020, when he did not participate in the primary election stage of the 2nd Defendant for the said Governorship Election, and both the Constitution and the Electoral Act expressly state that nobody should be declared as the winner of any election in which he has not participated in all the stages.

A DECLARATION that having regard to the provision of Section 182(1) (j) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and the recent Supreme Court decision in MODIBBO V. USMAN (2020) 3 NWLR (PT1712) 470 as well as similar decided authorities, the 1st Defendant presented a false/forged certification to the 3rd Defendant in his INEC Form EC9 which he personally verified on oath, by stating the West African Senior School Certificate (WASC) as his highest educational qualification.

A DECLARATION that the participation of the 1st Defendant in the Ondo State Governorship Election of 10/10/2020 as the candidate of the 2nd Defendant is unlawful, illegal, unconstitutional, and null and void.

AN ORDER of this Honourable Court disqualifying the 1st Defendant as the candidate of the 2nd Defendant for the Ondo State Governorship Election of 10/10/2020.

AN ORDER compelling the 3rd Defendant to stop and/or withdraw all the recognition hitherto accorded the 1st Defendant as the candidate of the 2nd Defendant for the Ondo State Governorship Election of 10/10/2020.

The Originating Summons is supported with a 38-paragraph affidavit and numerous exhibits, including documents from INEC, the Council of Legal Education, and the Registrar of the Supreme Court. He also filed a 25-page written address in support of the case and cited many Supreme Court judgments.

The Lawyer based his case and arguments on three grounds. The first ground he asserts is that Hon. Agboola Ajayi presented false certificate in his INEC Form EC9 (Affidavit of Personal Particulars) by stating that he had fulfilled all the requirements for election as a Governor, even when he never participated in the ZLP primary election, and that both the Constitution and the Electoral Act clearly state that nobody should be declared as the winner of any election in which he has not participated in all the stages.

The second ground is that Hon. Agboola Ajayi also (allegedly) presented a forged WSSC certificated to INEC which he claimed to have obtained as an internal student of Community High School, Mobolorunduro, in the 2004 May/June Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE), as his highest academic qualification.

Emodamori argued that Agboola Ajayi was the Chairman of Ese-Odo Local Government Area of Ondo State from 2003 to 2007 in full time service as required by the Constitution, and was never simultaneously an internal student of the Secondary School where he claimed to have obtained the 2004 May/June WASSC.

The third ground canvassed by the Lawyer is that by stating the WASSC as his highest academic qualification in the INEC Form EC9, Hon. Agboola Ajayi who had been parading himself as a Lawyer and graduate of Law from Igbinedion University, and had even filled the Council of Legal Education Application Form for Call to the Nigerian Bar (Exhibit FEE10) stating the same facts, engaged in deliberate falsehood and concealment. He relies on the Supreme Court judgment in MODIBBO V. USMAN (2020) 3 NWLR (PT1712) 470 to argue that the alleged deliberate falsehood and concealment itself is a forged certificate upon he would be disqualified.

Emodamori also cited several Supreme Court judgments to argue that the ZLP candidate could be disqualified by the Court even after the election.

The Suit has the Zenith Labour Party (Z.L.P) and INEC as the 2nd and 3rd Defendants respectively.

Below is the summary of arguments in the Suit contained in paragraphs 8.0 to 8.24 of the written address:

8.1 By virtue of Section 182(1)(j) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), no person shall be qualified for election to the office of Governor of a state if he has presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission.

8.2 It is submitted that based on the Supreme Court decisions in MODIBBO V. USMAN (2020) 3 NWLR (PT 1712) 470 AT 509-510 PARAS H-D and DIDE & ANOR v. SELEILETIMBI & ORS (2009) LPER-4038 (CA), (2008) 15 NWLR (PT 1110) 221, the word “certificate” used in Section 182 (1)(j) of the Constitution has broader meaning than the restricted meaning given to the words “School certificate or its equivalent” in Section 318 (1) of the same Constitution.

8.3 It is submitted, based on the same authorities, that the noun “certificate” is derived from the verb- “certify” and that to certify in its ordinary natural sense means to attest, verify, testify, vouch, ascertain, determine, or to show. Ipso facto, “Certificate” as a noun means any document that attests, testifies vouches, ascertains, and verifies the facts therein.

8.4 It is therefore submitted that the declarations or attestations of the 1st Defendant in his INEC Form EC9 amount to certificates within the meaning of the law, and that any or every declaration by the 1st Defendant therein relating to his eligibility which turns out to be deliberate falsehood, would constitute a false/forged certificate.

8.5 It is submitted that by the clear provisions of Section 285(13) of the Constitution and Section 141 of Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), for any person to be eligible for or qualified for any elective public office, he must have participated in all the stages of the election.

8.6 It is further submitted that by virtue of Sections 87 and 31(1) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), there are two principal stages in an election, to wit: the primary election stage and the general election stage. Both stages of election are well defined in Section 156 of the same Electoral Act.

8.7 My lord, based on the clear provisions of Section 285(13) of the Constitution, as well as Section 141 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), it is now a fundamental and indispensable constitutional requirement for any person seeking elective office to participate in both the primary and general election stages. The law is now settled that no one can be declared the winner of an election in which he has not participated in all the stages mentioned above.

8.8 It is however clear from the averments in paragraphs 3 and 22 of the affidavit in support of this Originating Summons and Exhibit FEE9 (the report of the primary of the 2nd Defendant duly monitored by INEC) that the 1st Defendant never participated in the 2nd Defendant’s primary.

8.9 As a matter of fact, it is clear from the facts before this Court that the 1st Defendant was not even a member of the 2nd Defendant until 14/8/2020, long after the conduct of party primaries had closed on 25/7/2020 by virtue of Exhibit FEE1 (INEC Timetable and Schedule of Activities for Ondo State 2020 Governorship Election).

8.10 It is therefore submitted that the 1st Defendant knew all along that he did not participate in the primary election stage for the nomination of the candidate of the 2nd Defendant for the Governorship Election, which is a fundamental constitutional requirement for any elective position.

8.11 Consequently, it is submitted that the declaration or attestation of the 1st Defendant in paragraph F of Exhibit FEE8, which he personally verified on oath, that: “I hereby declare that all the answers, facts and particulars I have given in this Form are true and correct, and I have, to the best of my knowledge, fulfilled all the requirements for qualification for the office I am seeking to be elected””, is a false/forged certificate. Your Lordship is again referred to the Supreme Court decisions in MODIBBO V USMAN (SUPRA) AT PAGE 510, PARAGRAPHS E-H and DIDE & ANOR v. SELEILETIMBI & ORS (2009) LPER-4038 (CA), (2008) 15 NWLR (PT 1110) 221.

8.12 It is submitted that the above false attestation or certificate presented by the 1st Defendant to the 3rd Defendant in INEC Form EC9 (Exhibit FEE8) is a fundamental ground for his disqualification in line with the above decided authorities, and your lordship is respectfully urged to so hold.

8.13 In the same vein, my lord, the Supreme Court has held that failure of a candidate to disclose higher institutions attended or academic qualifications obtained therefrom in his INEC Form CF001 (which is now Form EC9 and Exhibit FEE8 in this case) as prescribed in the Form, amounts to deliberate concealment and falsehood, which is another synonym for false certificate. Your lordship is again referred to the Supreme Court decision in Modibbo v. Usman (Supra) at page 514-515 PARAS H-B.

8.14 The 1st Defendant deliberately stated the WASSC he purportedly obtained from Community High School, Mobolorunduro, in the 2004 May/June Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) as his highest academic qualification. He was mute on Igbinedion University Law degree which he is parading. He was equally mute on the Nigerian Law School Barrister-at-Law and subsequent Call to the Bar Certificates, yet parading himself all over the world as a Nigerian Lawyer; he has very good reasons to disown the law degree as well as the B.L and Call to Bar Certificates in his INEC Form EC9 (Exhibit FEE8), which stipulates that candidates should list higher institutions attended with dates, and to attach “evidence of all educational qualifications”. Worse still, the 1st Defendant had the boldness (or absence of it?) to verify all his claims in Exhibit FEE8 on oath.

8.15 The reason is obvious. My lord, the 1st Defendant had been the Chairman of Ese-Odo Local Government Area of Ondo State since 2003 and occupied that office till year 2007, first as a Caretaker Chairman from 2003 to 2004, and subsequently as an elected Chairman from 2004 to 2007. He was equally elected and did serve as a full time member of the House of Representatives from 2007 to 2011. As a full time public servant, it was practically impossible for him to have simultaneously studied Law as a full time Degree Course in the University, enrolled in the Nigerian Law School, which is also a full time program, and be called to the Bar on 6/12/2010 as revealed in Exhibit FEE12, all within the same period when was serving as a full time elected public officer as required by the Constitution. That was the illegality and fraud he is actually concealing. He is shielding himself from public scrutiny; the same public he claims he wants to serve.

8.16 It is emphatically submitted that based on the Supreme Court decisions in DIDE & ANOR V. SELEILETIMBI & ORS (2009) LPER-4038 (CA), (2008) 15 NWLR (PT 1110) 221, and MODIBBO V. USMAN (2020) 3 NWLR (PT 1712) 470 AT 509-510 PARAS H-D, the 1st Defendant presented false/forged certificate in INEC Form EC9 (Exhibit FEE8) by deliberately concealing information on the higher institutions and the certificates obtained or purportedly obtained therefrom.

8.17 In the same vein, it is submitted that the 1st Defendant clearly presented a false certificate to the 3rd Defendant in Exhibit FEE8 by stating that he attended Community High School, Mobolorunduro up till May/June 2004 and obtained the West African Senior School Certificate (WASSC) therefrom, even when he was already serving as a full time public servant since 2003.
8.18 On the premise of the above, it is submitted that the Claimant has sufficiently established his case for the declarations sought in reliefs 1, 2 and 3 in the Originating Summons.

8.19 In the same vein, and based on the clear provision of Section 31(6) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) this Court is imbued with the statutory power to disqualify the 1st Defendant as the candidate of the 2nd Defendant for the Ondo State Governorship Election of 10th October, 2020.

8.20 It is submitted that the power conferred on this Court in Section 31(6) of the Electoral Act is, and must necessarily be exercisable even after the election, as the law is settled that issues relating to the interpretation of law cannot be dead or become academic, speculative or hypothetical. Your lordship is in this regard respectfully referred to the Supreme Court decisions in ARDO V. INEC (2017) 13 NWLR (PT 1583) SC 450 AT 476-477 PARAS G and SALIK V. IDRIS (2004) 16 NWLR (PT1429) 36 AT 73 PARAS C-D.

8.21 It is also trite that the holding of an election does not extinguish the cause of action in a pre-election suit. Your lordship is humbly referred to LAU V. P. D.P (2018) 4 NWLR (PT 1608) 60.

8.22 It is therefore submitted that relief 4 sought by the Claimant in the Originating Summons would outlive the holding of the Governorship Election, and should be granted by this Honourable Court.

8.23 My lord, it is submitted that relief 5 is a consequential relief that should be granted by this Court upon the favourable consideration of the Claimant’s case and the grant of the preceding reliefs 1 to 4, as argued above. Consequently, your lordship is equally urged to grant same.

8.24 In conclusion, it is respectfully submitted that the Claimant has fully established his case, and that all the reliefs sought by him in the Originating Summons should be granted.

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