By Our Correspondent
A Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday, dismissed a suit filed by Mr . Joe Agi, (SAN), challenging the candidacy of Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River state in the April 11, 2015 governorship election.
Ruling on the case, Justice Abdul Kafarati said: “if the party’s constitution, stipulates that despite its rules, if a candidate is cleared by the party leadership, such a candidate is a bonafide representative of the party and, the court has no jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
In his suit, Mr. Agi argued that the governor did not meet the requirement to emerge as the candidate of the party because he defaulted in the payment of the membership fee of the Peoples Democratic Party, contrary to the constitution of the party.
Agi’s suit was filed as a pre-election matter in March 2015, challenging the emergence of governor Ayade as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party for the April 11th governorship election.
As a candidate in the primary election of the party, Agi had challenged the emergence of the governor on the ground that he did not pay his membership fee to the party as when due, which according to the laws of the Peoples Democratic Party should lead to an automatic disqualification.
But the governor, through his counsel, argued that contrary to the claims of the plaintiff, the party, in line with its rules has the prerogative to decide on its candidate and representatives in any election subject to the approval of the national working committee, inspite of its guide lines.
In his ruling, Justice Abdul Kafarati held that issues bordering on the conduct of party primaries and election of candidates were purely the domestic affairs of political parties, and that the court lacks the powers to intervene on the internal affairs of a political party.
“Section 87  of the electoral Act 2010 relates to the conduct of party primaries. The issues of payment of monthly dues, levies and sponsorship of candidates and who will be a candidate of a political party are internal affairs of the party. A court of law cannot compel a political party to sponsor a particular candidate for an elective position.
Justice Kafarati further maintained that the “Court can only intervene where there is complain as to a breach in the conduct of the primary. Clearly, the issues of non-payment of monthly subscription and annual fees by member of political parties are outside the jurisdiction of courts”, and stated that the evidence before him lucidly showed that the governor was cleared by the party to contest the governorship election after he was screened and issued with a certificate of clearance.
He said in any case the party constitution also stipulates that inspite of its rules, the decision of the national working committee on candidacy for any election is final as such, the suit was consequently struck out.
Ruling on the issue of alleged forgery and perjury, Justice Kafarati agreed that they are criminal offences that are to be proved beyond reasonable doubts. The allegation that Ayade declared different ages in different affidavits was held not to have been proven beyond reasonable doubt before the court.
The alleged forgery of PDP receipts relating to payment of dues also failed because PDP owned up the receipts as coming from the party. The letters said to have emanated from the University of Ibadan confirming perjury were disowned by the University. The Judge added that “the allegations need to be properly investigated by the appropriate authorities”.
Agi had sued the Peoples Democratic Party and the Independent National Electoral Commission asking that he be substituted with Governor Ayade as the bona fide candidate of the party, having met all the requirements, which, according to him were not met by Ayade.
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