It was a third consecutive loss for ex-Governor Segun Oni in his bid to sack Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State as the Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed the appeal he filed.
The appeal was against an earlier judgment of the Court of Appeal, which upheld the decision of a Federal High Court, dismissing Oni’s suit challenging Fayemi’s eligibility to contest the last governorship election held in the state on June 14, 2018.
The Supreme Court, in a unanimous judgment of a five-man panel, held on Wednesday, that the appeal by Oni was statute barred and therefore, incompetent.
Justice Amiru Sanusi, in the lead judgment, held that the case, being a pre-election one, was not commenced at the trial court, within the time provided under Section 285 of the Constitution.
Justice Sanusi said the case was not commenced in accordance with the provision of Section 285 of the Constitution, requiring all pre-election cases to be initiated within 14 days of the occurrence of the cause of action.
He noted that from the record before the court Oni filed his suit at the trial court – the Federal High Court, Ado-Ekiti, 42 days after the cause of action arose.
Justice Sanusi said the development robbed the court of the jurisdiction to hear the appeal, while he said was incompetent and had become an academic exercise.
Another member of the panel, Justice John Okoro faulted the attitude exhibited by the appellant and advised politicians to always act decently.
Justice Okoro wondered why Oni, who had conceded defeat, on emerging second in the governorship primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), made a sudden u-turn and chose to challenge the outcome of the primary in court.
The judge, who noted that, even among the mafias, there are rules, came down hard on Nigerian politicians, who he observed, act without honour.
Oni had, upon emerging second behind Fayemi in the primary held by the APC to select its candidate for last governorship election in Ekiti State, sued, challenging Fayemi’s eligibility to contest the election.
He prayed the court to declare that Fayemi was not eligible to contest the election on the grounds that he was not validly nominated, having allegedly failed to resign his position as Minister of Mines and Steel Development 30 days before the primary election.
Oni also asked the court to declare Fayemi ineligible for the election given that he was indicted by the Justice Silas Oyewole-led commission of inquiry set up by former Governor Ayo Fayose to investigate his first tenure between 2010 and 2014.
He equally sought the withdrawal of the certificate of return issued to Fayemi, upon winning the election, and to declare him (Oni) as the duly nominated APC candidate and duly elected governor.
The case, which was initially filed before the Federal High Court, Abuja, was transferred by Justice Babatunde Quadri to the court’s division in Ado-Ekiti, on grounds of jurisdiction.
In a judgment on December 10, 2018, Justice Uche Agomoh of the Federal High Court, Ado-Ekiti, dismissed Oni’s case for lacking in merit.
Oni suffered a similar fate at the Court of Appeal, when the appellate court, in a judgment on February 12, 2019 dismissed his appeal for being unmeritorious.
The Court of Appeal, among others, said Fayemi’s failure to resign as the then Minister of Solid Minerals to contest the May 12, 2018 governorship primary where he emerged as the candidate of APC was not enough to disqualify him.
The court also held that Fayemi’s indictment by Justice Silas Oyewole led judicial panel of inquiry was not enough to bar him from participating in the election.
The Court of Appeal held that it was only a conviction by a competent court of law that could bar an aspirant from a primary or general election and not mere indictment by a panel.
It was also noted that the said indictment and the white paper issued by the state government had been set aside by a judgment by Justice Musa Othman of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Bwari, Abuja.