The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Friday awarded N17 million to the three petitioners and their counsel in a bid to stop the swearing-in of Bola Tinubu on May 29.
Delivering the verdict, James Omotosho described the case as “nonsensical, disgusting and an abuse of judicial processes”.
This was followed by oral submissions by Mr. Tinubu’s lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and APC lawyer, Abdulganiyu Arobo, who asked the court to dismiss the case as unconstitutional.
Agreeing with the lawyers, Mr Omotosho said the petitioners, neither candidates nor members of a political party, members of the election in which Mr Tinubu was elected president, had no locus standi, legal right to institute the suit.
He further argued that the court had no jurisdiction to consider the matter as it was a post-election matter, the Presidential Election Petition had to be filed with the Court.
The judge, as punishment, ordered the petitioners to pay N10 million to Mr. Tinubu and N5 million to the All Progressive Congress (APC).
The court ordered the petitioners’ lawyer, Daniel Elombah, to pay Mr. Tinubu and the APC N1 million each for filing a vexatious suit.
Mr. Omotosho ruled that the petitioners and the lawyer should pay 10 per cent of the amount per annum until the fines are paid in full.
Earlier on Thursday, the Court of Appeal in Abuja He has been fined N40 million against a candidate, Ambrose Owuru, who prayed to be sworn in as president in place of Mr. Tinubu in the 2019 presidential election for filing a “strange” case.
The Supreme Court had earlier on Friday awarded N2 billion costs against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). after dismissing a suit Calling for the disqualification of Mr. Tinubu and his running mate in the February 25 presidential election.
The suit filed last year implicitly sought to stop Mr. Tinubu’s inauguration on Monday.
Mr. Tinubu’s victory in the 25th presidential election triggered a string of lawsuits, including three at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Federal Court ruled on Friday that the case was filed by three petitioners: Praise Ilemona Isaiah, Paul Isaac Audu and Anongu Moses.
They filed an ex-parte motion marked FHC/ABJ/CS/657/2023 through their counsel, Daniel Elombah.
In the suit, the President of Nigeria, Mr. Tinubu, the All Progressive Congress (APC), the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Director General of State Security Services (SSS) were sued.
Others are the Inspector General of Police and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In the motion filed on May 18 and May 22, the petitioners sought an interim injunction to prevent Mr. Tinubu from being sworn in as President of Nigeria pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
In a 10-ground argument attached to the motion, the petitioners said the APC candidate contested the last presidential election and INEC declared him the winner of the poll.
Although Mr. Tinubu was billed to be sworn in as president on May 29, they said Mr. Tinubu failed to declare his alleged Guinean citizenship alongside his Nigerian citizenship in the affidavit submitted to INEC on EC9 form.
By this, the petitioners argued that Mr. Tinubu had committed an offense of perjury, among others, which disqualified him from running for the presidency.
Mr. Omotosho on Tuesday ordered Oliver Eya, who filed the motion on behalf of Mr. Elombah, to state whether the court had jurisdiction to hear the case, the locus standi of the petitioners and the legal right they sought to protect.
The judge then decided on the verdict today (Friday).
When the matter was settled, Mr. Omotosho said the petitioners had no legal right to file the suit.
He also believes that the court has no jurisdiction to judge the case and that the decision taken would be null and void.
“The issue of jurisdiction is serious and, in fact, it is the life stone of any procedure.
“A court that judges a matter that has no jurisdiction would waste the time of the trial judge, the court staff and, in fact, material, human and financial resources.
“This court is mindful of how precious its time is and would not want to waste that time on a matter over which it clearly has no jurisdiction.
The matter of “the petitioners have no locus standi to file this petition” is not within the jurisdiction of this court either.
“Therefore, I hold that any case challenging the qualification, disqualification or office of the President-elect and the Vice-President-elect by any High Court or Federal High Court is unconstitutional, ultra vires and offensive as the Court of Appeal has original jurisdiction under Article 239 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. As amended by (1).
“In particular, this case is disgusting, frivolous and should not be filed because it is an abuse of judicial process. I note that the Court of Appeals is hearing in the Presidential Election Petition Court, and therefore the cases seeking the removal of the President-elect and the Vice-President-elect from office in the Presidential Election Petition Court must be presented in the right place.
“I have to comment on the attitude of the lawyers who file these types of cases, because these cases are capable of destabilizing the democracy of this country.
“Councillors who are supposed to be ministers in the temple of justice are filing frivolous suits in Courts challenging the appointment or appointment of the elected president within days of the appointment of the president.
“In the opinion of this court, learned lawyers are violating the Rules of Professional Conduct by filing malicious cases capable of heating up politics.
“Attorneys should advise their clients about the consequences of filing these types of lawsuits.
“Instead, the lawyer goes ahead to file these cases that are capable of dragging the name of the judiciary into the mud,” he said.
The judge said that a simple look at the constitution would show where the suit should be filed, the capacity of the plaintiffs and the filing period, as the lawyer also knew the contents of the original process. .
He said the lawyer “ignored these important details in filing this completely disgusting, frivolous, abusive and disgraceful lawsuit.”
“This court will not allow itself to be used as an instrument of destabilization, nor will it violate the constitutional jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals, which has original jurisdiction and is already exercising jurisdiction,” he said.
He said that although the plaintiffs had the legal right to file a lawsuit, “lawsuits challenging the qualification or appointment of a candidate must be filed within 14 days of the event; therefore, the lawsuit is time-barred.”
Consequently, the judge denied the application for an interim injunction preventing Tinubu from being sworn in as the President of Nigeria and dismissed the main suit in which the petitioners prayed to nullify Tinubu’s candidacy.
After the judgement, Mr. Fagbemi, who appeared for Tinubu, then asked the court for a cost of N30 million, describing the case as an abuse of court processes.
Corroborating Mr. Fagbemi’s submission, Mr. Arobo, who appeared for APC, sought N20 million in costs against the plaintiffs and another N20 million against their counsel.
He said this would warn lawyers and their clients against engaging in the reprehensible act.
“This country will not know what my lord has done to save this nation.
“The court and the Court of Appeal have decided this issue,” he said.
Although Mr. Arobo said, the consultant was still going ahead.
He said that if the lawyer was punished, it would reduce the abuses of some lawyers.
READ ALSO: Tinubu’s Inaugural Concert: Portable Tones to be performed by Obident colleagues
“A lawyer’s first duty as a minister of the temple is to protect the sanctity of the judicial process,” he said.
The judge, however, asked the lawyers who brought the protesters to court.
“I heard that they are saying that Nigeria belongs to them and not to the court.
“I want to advise you that you should not do this when you are handed over to the court.
“It can lead to anarchy. We have a duty to keep this nation as one. They have the right to protest but not to come to court and say what they are saying, lawyer,” Mr Omotosho said.
Accept PREMIUM TIMES’ journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. However, only good journalism can guarantee a good society, a responsible democracy and the possibility of a transparent government..
For free access to the best investigative journalism in the country, we ask that you make a modest contribution to this noble endeavor.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain journalism that matters and keep it free and accessible to all.
Text ad: Call Willie – +2348098788999