The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Apo, Abuja, on Thursday, dismissed a suit challenging the eligibility of the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress in Ogun State, Mr. Dapo Abiodun, to contest in the forthcoming Saturday’s election in the state.
Delivering judgment in the suit filed by Mr. Abdulrafiu Baruwa, a member of the APC in the state, Justice Olukayode Adeniyi held that the suit anchored on the failure of Abiodun to declare his university degree in his Form CF.001 submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission lacked merit.
He held that the suit although well merited but “is unmeritorious”.
Baruwa had on December 13, 2018 filed his suit asking the court to disqualify Abiodun for allegedly making false declaration in the form submitted to INEC.
The plaintiff, through his counsel, Mr. Oluwole Aladedoye, alleged that Abiodun deliberately refused to disclose his university degree in the Form CF.001, an act which the plaintiff contended amounted to making false declaration of information so as to avoid the requirement of presenting a National Youth Service Corps certificate.
The plaintiff prayed that on the basis of Abiodun’s allegedly disclosing falsely in the Form CF.001 that all the educational qualification he had was his O’Level certificate, the court should disqualify him from contesting in the forthcoming poll as provided under section 31(4) and (5) of the Electoral Act.
The plaintiff had prayed that upon disqualifying Abiodun, the court should declare Jimi Lawal, who came second in the APC’s governorship primary in Ogun State, as the party’s candidate ahead of the Saturday’s poll in the state.
But in his judgment, Justice Adeniyi in dismissing the suit agreed with the submissions by Abiodun’s lawyer, Damien Dodo (SAN), and Abiodun’s lawyer, Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN).
The judge ruled that as much as the APC candidate’s non-declaration of his university degree in the form submitted to INEC did not relate to the requirement to contest for the office of the governor as provided for under section 177 of the Constitution, the omission in the said Form CF.001 lacked “legal consequence”.
According to the judge, by virtue of section 177 of the Constitution, a person aspiring to become a governor is only required to produce a school certificate or its equivalent and therefore was of no moment that Abiodun did not produce his university degree to INEC.
The judge said, “I must agree with the learned senior counsel for the first and second defendants (APC and Abiodun) that the portion of section c of Form CF.001 under section 31 of the Electoral Act cannot be construed in vacuum” but in line with the “constitutional requirement to contest for the office of the governor of a state under section 177 (d) of the Constitution which provides that the person must be educated to at least school certificate level or its equivalent.
“In the instant case, the plaintiff is not saying that the second defendant did not possess the educational requirement to contest for the office of the governor in Ogun State under section 177(d) of the Constitution or that the second defendant forged his certificate which would have made him liable for disqualification under section 31 of the Electoral Act.”