A former commissioner of Information of Kogi state and a staunch APC Stakeholder in the state, Dr. Tom Ohikere commended the Federal High Court, Abuja, over the dismissed suit filed by Natasha Akpoti, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the November 16 governorship election in Kogi State, against the governor, Yahaya Bello, for lacking in locus standi.
Ohikere described Natasha as a versatile personality in Ebira land armed with lots of experience and energy and encouraged her to rather convert her energy and forge a common front to support the current administration of Governor Yaya Bello who had in no less measure demonstrated capacity to lead the state within the space of time since he assumed office.
“At this stage I expect Natasha to reserve her energy for the future political struggle of her people of Kogi central. So many things are of her advantage, she has age, energy, she is versatile, she has contacts and good network, she should pull this network for the common interest of the state and not to allow Bello to be distracted and let him finish the good work he has begun”, he said.
According to him, Natasha has been a good advocate for the completion of Ajeokuta and now that the federal government has started something good on Ajeokuta, she should direct her energy now towards that project, to tell the world about the potentiality of the state to attract more investors, market Kogi state for the world to see the investment opportunities that could be mobilized in Ajeokuta.
Recall, the judge, Inyang Ekwo, who delivered the judgement, held that the alleged offence was criminal and not a civil case, which could be instituted by an individual.
The judge therefore declared that the plaintiff had no legal right to institute the case.
Earlier NAN report that the SDP’s candidate had, in a suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/1221/2019 dated October 10 and filed by Mike Ozekhome, SAN, on her behalf, sought the court’s determination on the eligibility of Mr Bello, at the just-concluded election, having been allegedly involved in double registration as a voter.
But Mr Bello had told the court that he was ready to defend himself on the allegation of double registration, framed against him by Mrs Akpoti.
While Barrister Akpoti was the plaintiff, the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Mr Bello were 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants respectively.
Delivering his judgment, Mr Ekwo, who noted Mrs Akpoti’s prayers before the court, said one of the issues raised in the 1st defendant’s application, was for the court to determine whether the plaintiff, who was not an aspirant in its primary election, had a locus standi to file the suit.
He said it is the statement of claim that will determine whether the plaintiff has locus standi or not; in this case, it is the originating summons that will determine this.
He said the plaintiff relied on sections of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), as the basis of her locus standi to challenge Bello; as APC’s candidate for the poll, following his involvement in electoral fraud.
“In her argument, the plaintiff said such a person is not a fit and proper person to be voted for, in any election, let alone for the highest office of a governor of a state,” the judge said.
Mr Ekwo, however, held that the section cited does not deal with fraud matters.
“The question now is whether the plaintiff locus standi to find a civil cause of action on Section 24(1)(e) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended). The answer is simply, no!
“It can be seen from the originating process that this suit is a civil action. It is not about the prosecution of the 3rd defendant for the allegation stated in Section 24(1)(e) of Electoral Act, 2010 or proving the case against him beyond a reasonable doubt, as prescribed by the law.
“It is clear from the originating processes that the plaintiff is not a prosecuting authority and the plaintiff not being a prosecuting authority had not exhibit or any fiat by any prosecution agency to engage in this act,” he held.
According to him, going by the wording of provisions of Sections 24 and 24(1)(e) of the Electoral Act, 2010, it is my opinion that no litigant can create a civil action out of the provisions.
He said the effect of lack of locus standi of the plaintiff portrayed that; “the court cannot exercise jurisdiction on this matter.”
Mr Ekwo, therefore, struck out the matter for lack of locus standi.
In an interview with journalists shortly after the proceeding, Counsel to Mr Bello, Muizudeen Abdullahi, said the court judgment had reaffirmed his position that the judiciary was on course.
He said what the court had done today was to apply the law.
“The plaintiff actually filed the action challenging the qualification, nomination and sponsorship of Yahaya Bello, in the election that took place on November 16, 2019.
“And we, as counsel, have the duty to assist the court in knowing the position of the law.
“So we filed a preliminary objection challenging the competence of the action and in the judgment this morning, the court agreed with us that the plaintiff who filed the action had no locus standi to file the action on the grounds that the section of the law, which she came under, was the section that confides a criminal power against any of the persons that breached the provisions of the law.
“So Section 24(e) as considered by the court has a criminal nature and not a civil action.
“So she filed a civil action and the court said by virtue of the fact that a section speaks on criminal issues, you, as an individual without a fiat of a prosecuting body, cannot file action, or a civil action to claim that one be punished under the law,” he said.
He advised Natasha to give up and support the current administration of Governor Yahaya Bello and not to allow personal interest to subjugate the interest of the state for the common benefits of all, “she has a lots to do for the state if she can let go of the differences and close up all cases and join the government to make sure everything work especially at a time where the national economy has been crippled by the Covid-19 pandemic.
While pleading with Governor Bello to be ready and open to welcome individuals who are willing to reconcile their differences and join force for the common good of the state.