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Campaign Funding: Atiku, INEC shun court, hearing fixed for Oct 3

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Jude Johnson 

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, presided over by Justice Ahmed Mohammed, on Thursday adjourned hearing of a suit challenging the campaign funding of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar prior to the 2019 general elections to October 3.

The suit was filed by the presidential candidate of the National Rescue Movement, Usman Ibrahim Alhaji.

President Buhari is the 1st defendant in the suit, while APC, Atiku, PDP and INEC are 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th defendants in that order. 

The suit was filed on behalf of the plaintiff by his lawyer, Ezekiel Ofou, who urged the court to invoke Section 91(2) of the Electoral Act, 2010, to nullify the participation of Buhari and Atiku in the poll for allegedly violating electoral laws.

At a resumed sitting, as usual, there was no legal representation for Atiku Abubakar, the PDP and INEC.

However, hearing of the matter could not go on, because the plaintiff’s counsel, Everest Ofou had informed the court that since the matter was filed, “none of the defendants has filed memoranda of appearance and response to the originating summons”.

That notwithstanding, Ofou told the court that Gbenga Benson, counsel to the 1st and 2nd defendants also served on him a motion on notice (preliminary objection) and counter affidavit while in court, Thursday morning. 

On his part, Benson told JustIce Mohammed that, “since inception of the suit, I have not been able to serve the 3rd, 4th and 5th defendants with my motion”.

He therefore requested for a short adjournment to enable him serve the defendants. 

The plaintiff did not oppose the request for adjournment. 

Consqeuently, the court adjourned the matter to October 3, for hearing of the 1st and 2nd defendant’s motion on notice. 

By the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/191/2019, the plaintiff wants the court to nullify the participation of Buhari and Atiku in February 23, 2019 Presidential poll, because they spent more than provided for by the Electoral Act in their campaigns. 

Specifically, the plaintiff is praying the court to set aside the participation of Buhari and Atiku on the ground that they spent more than one billion Naira each as campaign expenses.The plaintiff claimed that by spending more than one billion Naira each, Buhari and Atiku had violated the electoral law and are liable to be removed as contestants in the election.

The plaintiff wants a declaration that the 1st and 3rd Defendants have brazenly and flagrantly violated the provisions of Section 91 (2) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as Amended), having exceeded the maximum legally allowable N1,000,000,000.00 election expenditure for presidential candidates, taking into cognizance, the excessive, profligate and continuous extravagant presidential campaigns of the 1st and 3rd Defendants since their emergence as presidential candidates of their respective political parties. 

“A declaration that the 1st Defendant unauthorized use of state resources brand-named ‘TRADERMONI’ with which the 1st Defendant through his running mate, Prof Yemi Osinbajo has employed to tacitly induce electorates in exchange for their votes amount to fraud covered within section 124 (1)(a);(b);(c); and Section 130 of the Electoral Act. 

“A declaration that branded items such as bags of fertilizers, bags of rice, being distributed to electorates at campaign rallies by the 1st and 3rd Defendants amount to inducement of electorates in exchange for votes and a fraud covered within section 124 (1)(a);(b);(c); and Section 130 of the Electoral Act. 

“A declaration  that the actions of the 1st and 3rd Defendants in all the circumstances and the silence of the 5th Defendant thereto, amount to discrimination, bias, bigotry and a denial of a level playing field against the Plaintiff and portrays Nigeria to the world as a country ,where politics is only for the rich, high and mighty and not for young enterprising and growing political parties. 

Consqeuently, the plaintiff is praying for an order Court directing the 5th Defendant to expunge the names of the 2nd and 4th Defendants from the presidential ballot papers so as to rescue Nigeria democracy from money bags, the influence of money, also, to prevent the undue use of money, and to preserve the people’s sovereignty as enshrined in Section 14(2) (a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended).

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