A Federal High Court, Lagos has dismissed a suit filed by the Peoples Democratic Party against the incumbent and governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress for the 2023 polls in Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and those for the Lagos State House of Assembly.
Justice Peter Lifu of the FHC, Lagos dismissed the case after the PDP moved to withdraw the suit on Wednesday.
The court also agreed with the defendants’ counsel that the plaintiffs failed to prosecute same diligently, after issues had been joined.
In the suit, which was filed on October 17, 2022, the PDP, which also sued the Independent National Electoral Commission, asked the court to among other things declare that by the proper construction and interpretation of the combined provisions of sections 29 and 30(1) of the Electoral Act 2022, it is mandatory for a political party such as the APC to submit the Nomination Forms of candidates it proposes to sponsor for elections to the 1st Defendant, INEC, no later than 180 days to the conduct of such elections.
The PDP also contended that having failed to submit the same within the required time, the Governor of Lagos and the candidates for the state House of Assembly stand disqualified for the elections scheduled to hold on March 11.
The PDP subsequently asked the court to nullify the nomination of the candidates by the APC and an order of injunction restraining INEC from according them recognition in the forthcoming governorship and State House of Assembly polls in Lagos State.
In defence of the suit, the APC was represented by Ahmed Raji (SAN); Sanwo-Olu was represented by Muyiwa Akinboro (SAN); and Babatunde Ogala (SAN) represented the State House of Assembly candidates.
The defendants filed amongst other things a Memorandum of Conditional Appearance, a Notice of Preliminary Objection and a Counter-Affidavit with Written Address.
In the preliminary objection, the defendants submitted amongst other things that the plaintiffs lacked the locus standi to institute and maintain the suit against the defendants.
The defendants also contended that the issue of nomination or sponsorship of a candidate is a sole prerogative and domestic affair of a political party and the suit constituted an abuse of court process.
When the matter came up for hearing on January 30, 2023, the plaintiff’s counsel, J.A. Olotu, requested a further date so as to enable them to file a response to the Preliminary Objection of the 4th to 43rd Defendants.
Ogala particularly informed the court that service of the preliminary objection, counter affidavit and written address on the plaintiff’s counsel was a problem as the plaintiff’s counsel address on the originating process was wrong, he had to resort to e-service via e-mail.
He further submitted that the suit ought to be struck out as the plaintiff is not diligent in the prosecution of the suit.
The court addressed the issues of incompetency of the plaintiff’s counsel and also agreed that the plaintiff was not diligent in the prosecution of the suit.
The suit was then adjourned till February 8 for hearing of the preliminary objections and the originating process with the directive that the plaintiff had 48 hours to respond to the preliminary objection and the defendants subsequently had 48 hours to reply same.
When the matter came up for hearing on Wednesday, Ogala again informed the court that the plaintiff failed to serve the defendants their response to the preliminary objections.
He also told the court that the suit and preliminary objection were ripe for hearing and he was ready to proceed.
The plaintiff’s counsel in response informed the court that they had prepared and served the defendants their response.
They however also sought to withdraw the suit.
The defendant’s counsel swiftly raised objections to the withdrawal of the suit.
Citing Order 50 Rule 2 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2019, they instead asked the court to dismiss the suit outright.
They also urged the court to sanction the plaintiff’s counsel for failing to file its response.
Justice Lifu agreed with the submissions of the defendants and the suit was dismissed.