6th March, 2013
Nnamdi Felix / Abuja
Bayelsa state Governor, Seriake Dickson on Wednesday trumped his challenger, Austin Febo Ogionwo before a Federal High Court siting in Abuja as the court struck out Ogionwo’s suit challenging the legality of the 19 November 2011 primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which produced Dickson as the party’s candidate.
Ogionwo instituted the suit last December pursuant to sections 6(6) and 272(1) of Nigeria’s constitution as well as section 87 (10) of the Electoral Act. He urged the court to nullify that governorship primary election against the backdrop that the exercise did not comply with relevant provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 as well as the party’s electoral guidelines for the 2010 primary elections.
PDP, Seriake Dickson and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, were listed as defendants in the suit.
Ogionwo contended that contrary to the requirements of the Electoral Act, PDP’s constitution and its Electoral Guidelines, that the party failed to conduct any special ward congress in the whole of Bayelsa state for the purpose of selecting delegates who will participate in the gubernatorial election.
He averred that he fulfilled the conditions necessitating participation on primary election and purchased the expression of interest form and went further to subject himself to screening by the panel set up by the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party.
However, in his preliminary objection, the governor urged the court to dismiss the suit on the ground that Ogionwo did not participate in that primary election which he is asking the court to nullify.
Governor Dickson contended that the mere fact that Ogionwo did not partake in that primary election has robbed him of the locus standi, adding that section 87 (10) of the Electoral Act, which Ogionwo is relying upon only recognized an aspirant who stood for the primary election proper.
He argued that the suit constitutes an abuse of court process, more so, since it took Ogionwo the more than 40 days after primaries to go to court, and fifty three days to serve him the papers.
The court presided by Justice Adamu Bello resolved the argument on locus standi against the Ogionwo having agreed Governor Dickson that his challenger does not have the locus to challenge the primaries he did not participate in.
The second leg of the governor’s objection which centered on his immunity by reason of section 308 of the constitution failed as the court noted that the provision only covers criminal and civil proceedings and not pre or post election issues.