By Kelvin Ifedayo
Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday granted approval for substituted service of a suit challenging the All Progressives Congress (APC) nomination of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State as the party’s candidate in the forthcoming October 10, 2020 governorship poll.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed made the order in a ruling on an ex parte application filed by a governorship aspirant on the APC platform in the state, Dr Nathaniel Adojutelegan, who is challenging the validity of the July 20, 2020 governorship primary election that produced Akeredolu as the party’s candidate.
The judge ordered that Akeredolu be served with all the processes filed by the plaintiff through substituted means by the “giving or handing” of the court documents “to the National Legal Adviser of the All Progressives Congress, staff or any official of the Legal Department at the APC National Secretariat at 40, Blantyre Street, Off Ademola Adetokunbo Street, Wuse II, FCT, Abuja”.
The court issued the order shortly after Adojutelegan’s lawyer, Mr Isaac Aderogba, moved the governorship candidate’s ex parte application on Wednesday.
While moving the application which was earlier filed on August 5, 2020, Aderogba informed the judge that he resort to requesting permission to effect service through substituted means because it had been difficult to serve the governor personally.
He said the court’s bailiff had succeeded in effecting service on the APC and the Independent National Electoral Commission, sued as the 1st and the 3rd respondents, respectively.
Akeredolu was sued as the 2nd defendant in the suit.
The judge after ordering that Akeredolu be served through the APC’s national secretariat adjourned till September 30.
The plaintiff, a lawyer, who was among the aspirants, who lost the primary to Akeredolu, had in his suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/886/2020, urged the court to make an order nullifying the nomination of Akeredolu as the party’s candidate in the forthcoming October 10, 2020 governorship election in the state.
Adojutelegan, who also urged the court not to allow Akeredolu to gain from his alleged wrongdoings regarding the July 20, 2020 governorship primary election, prayed for an order nullifying the exercise and order a fresh primary from which the governor should be disqualified.
The plaintiff, alleged in his suit that “the primary was marred by grave and substantial noncompliance with the spirit and purpose of the 1st defendant’s (APC) Constitution, Electoral Guidelines and the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) and these substantially affected the outcome of the primary election.”
Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the delegates’ list used for the primary violated section 87(7) and (8) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), Article 20 (iii) and (iv) (a), (b), (c) and (d) of the APC Constitution 2014 (as amended) and Electoral Guidelines.
According to the plaintiff, the list was unlawful and in invalid on the grounds that it was filled with the names of principal officers of the wards, local governments, and state executive committees of the party in Ondo State, none of whom was democratically elected to be delegates at the primary as prescribed by the laws and regulations cited.
He added that the primary was invalid and unlawful as it was conducted in defiance of a pending suit marked, FHC/AK/CS/10/19, which was filed before the Federal High Court, Akure Division, challenging constitutionality and validity of the ward, local government and state executives selected or appointed in 2018, yet drafted to vote as delegates in the July 20, 2020 primary.
He added that the primary was conducted in violation of secret ballot principle enshrined in section 87 (4)(b) and (7) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and Paragraph 14 (III) of the Electoral Guidelines.
He alleged that the election was conducted in an open ballot system “whereby there were no polling booth(s) or cubicle(s) and delegates freely and openly took pictures of their ballot papers by phone and showed the ballot papers to each other and to agents of the 2nd defendant (Akeredolu) while voting”.
Adojutelegan also alleged that just before voting started in the primary, Akeredolu orchestrated rumour that he [Adojutelegan] had stepped down and re-posted the rumour via his Facebook and Twitter accounts “to enable him [Akeredolu] dubiously secure victory”.
He stated that he was confronted by his supporters with allegations that he had been “settled with dollars” to give up his governorship ambition, a development which he said was damaging to his political career.
He stated that the conduct of the primary the conduct “is not only despicable but is a violation of the mandatory provision of Paragraph 3 of the Electoral Guidelines which requires good compartment and reasonable behaviour by all aspirants prior to, during and after the screening and primary.”