By Eric Ikhilae, Abuja
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday scheduled judgment for December 14 in a suit challenging the validity of the July 20, 2020, primary election from which Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu emerged as candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the October 2020 election in Ondo
Justice Okon Abang chose the date entertaining the concluding arguments of lawyers to parties with the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) the third defendant in the suit, adopting its counter-affidavit in opposition to the suit filed by a governorship aspirant in Ondo State, Nathaniel Adojutelegan, who participated in the primary but lost.
The plaintiff, the APC and Akeredolu, the first and second defendants, respectively, had through their separate lawyers, on Tuesday, when the hearing started, adopted their counter-affidavits and notices of preliminary objection in urging the court to dismiss the suit.
Justice Abang suspended proceedings in the case on Tuesday and adjourned till Friday to enable INEC made its final argument when it was discovered mid-way proceedings that all processes filed by INEC in the case were not in the court’s file and not served on other parties.
INEC’s lawyer, Abdulaziz Sani, had explained that the omission was on the part of the court’s registry which took the processes he filed to Court Four, instead of Court Five where the case was being heard.
Adopting INEC’s counter-affidavit on Friday, Sani, said: “Considering the nature of the dispute, we will rather be bound by the outcome of the suit”.
Responding, plaintiff’s lawyer, Isaac Aderogba, contended in his reply on points of law that INEC’s description of the mode of ballot used by the APC’s electoral committee for the July 20, 2020 primary election as “open secret ballot system” was an admission by the commission which monitored the poll that “secret ballot system” was jettisoned in violation of the party’s constitution and electoral guidelines.
Lawyers to the APC and Akeredolu – Omosanya Popoola and Akin Olujinmi (SAN) said the “open secret ballot” was a mere hybrid of “secret ballot” and not an admission that the APC’s electoral committee jettisoned the “secret ballot” as claimed by the plaintiff’s lawyer.
While Sani said his client would abide by whatever decision the court comes up with, Popoola and Olujinmi urged the court to dismiss the suit.