Gov. Ayade wins at supreme Court

By FactNews on 10/12/2016

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Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State has won his case at the supreme Court as S-court upheld his election.

The court, in a unanimous judgment by a five-man panel, dismissed an appeal raised by a lawyer, Joe Agi (SAN) against an earlier decision of the Court of Appeal, which upheld Ayade’s election.

Agi had participated in the governorship primary of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on December 8, 2014, from which Ayade emerged as the party’s candidate for the 2015 election.

Agi later challenged Ayade’s victory in the primary and his eventual victory at the election, raising issues of age and party membership.

It was Agi’s contention at the trial court that Ayade was not a valid member of the PDP, as at when he participated in the primary, because he allegedly defaulted in his dues.

Agi also queried Ayade’s candidacy on the ground that he falsified his age.

He claimed that Ayade falsely represented his date of birth in his nomination form submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other records as March 2, 1968 and March 2, 1969.

He sought Ayade’s disqualification on those grounds, and prayed the court to among others, disqualify Ayade and void his election.

The Federal High Court, Abuja dismissed the suit for lacking in merit. Agi appealed to the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which, in a judgment on February 5, 2016, also dismissed the appeal, a decision Agi later appealed to the Supreme Court.

Justice Clara Ogunbiyi, who read the lead judgement of the Supreme Court Friday, said it was not the responsibility of the court to determine who is a member of a political party.

 

The Judge said political parties are like voluntary association and that the issue of determining who is a member is internal to the political party.

She said since there were evidences that the PDP cleared Ayade to contest election as its candidate, it was not for the court to begin to inquire how the party arrived at its decision.

On the issue of age, Justice Ogunbiyi said since the discrepancies noted in Ayade’s documents were not intended to circumvent the constitutional requirement of 35 years (for a person ruling for governorship position), they were immaterial.

She noted that age falsification was criminal offence, which needed to be adequately proved by the person making such allegation.

Justice Ogunbiyi said the status of a person’s membership of a political party was not “justiciable,” and that since the party, through its state Secretary, confirmed at the trial court that Ayade had paid all his dues and that he remained a member of the party, the court could not hold otherwise.

She said: “The pertinent question to pose is that who between the appellant (Agi) and the first respondent (the PDP) has the vires to decide who is a member of the party.”

The judge noted that contrary to Agi’s submission, the endorsement of the word “cleared” on Ayade’s membership card, was sufficient to show that he (Ayade) had paid all necessary dues as stipulated in section 8(10) of PDP’s constitution.

 

She noted that as provided under paragraph 48 of the of the PDP’s Guideline for Primary Election 2014, the party’s National Executive Committee’s (NEC’s) decision, conveyed by the state chapter of the party, to the effect that Ayade was a member of the party, was final and binding on all aspirants, who participated in the December 8, 2014 primary.

Justice Ogunbiyi said: “As I earlier said, a political party is a voluntary association and its decision is binding on its members even if it is deemed unreasonable.The decision of the party on issue like this is final.

“The court will not substitute its will with that of the voluntary association, whether it is reasonable or unreasonable.”

Justice Ogunbiyi, who noted the allegation of age falsification “is rooted” in criminality, said Agi failed to prove his allegation that Ayade falsified his age beyond reasonable doubt as required by law.

The judge said for age falsification to serve as a disqualifying factor for any person contesting for the office of governor, it must be proved that it was done with the intention to meet the minimum age of 35 years, which is the constitutional requirement for any person seeking to occupy the office of governor.

Justice Ogunbiyi said that neither of disputed the dates of birth (March 2, 1968 and March 2, 1969), which placed the age of the governor at either 45 or 46 as of the time he was nominated by the PDP to run for the office of the governor, conferred any undue advantage on him.

“The second respondent (Ayade) was said to have stated his date of birth in his nomination form to INEC as March 2, 1968.

“That means that he was 46 years old as of the time he was nominated and that was 11 years above the constitutional requirement of 35 years.

“By March 2, 1969, the second respondent would have been 45 years old as of the time he was sponsored by the first respondent (the PDP).

“He would still have been 10 years above the constitutional requirement age of 35 years for office of the governor.

“The appellant has failed to prove the intention of the second respondent to circumvent the law in order to ensure his compliance with constitutional age requirement,” Justice Ogunbiyi said.

The judge noted that sections 14(b) and 15(2) of the PDP’s constitution and Section 31(2),(5) and (6) of the Electoral Act (which provide for the disqualification of any aspirant seeking political office) were to ensure compliance with the requirement on mandatory age for the office of the governor under section 177(b) and section 182(1) of the Constitution.

 

 

 

Source The Nation

Posted on December, 10 2016

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