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APPEAL COURT AFFIRMS AKINLADE, UPTURNS FEDERAL HIGH COURT DECISION

The Ibadan Division of the Court of Appeal has delivered a judgment reinstating Hon Abiodun Isiaq Akinlade as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Egbado South/Ipokia Federal Constituency in the 2023 House of Reps Elections. The Court of Appeal set aside the erroneous judgment of the Federal High Court that had removed Hon Akinlade as the APC’s candidate and also disqualified him from the race.

Delivering judgment in the appeal marked CA/IB/429/2022 APC v. CHIEF MICHEAL ADEBAYO ADELEKE & 2 ORS, the Panel comprising Justices Adumein, Nimpar, and Ojo resolved all the issues in the appeal in favour of APC and Hon Akinlade.

The court first determined an application filed by Kehinde Ogunwumiju SAN on behalf of APC asking the court to strike out the written argument filed by Chief Micheal Adebayo Adeleke in response to the appeal. Chief Adeleke had won the case at the Federal High Court. APC argued that the written argument filed by Chief Adeleke was incompetent, having been filed outside the time stipulated by the Election Judicial Proceedings Practice Direction 2022.

In agreeing with the Appellant’s submission, the Court of Appeal held that the Practice Directions apply to both election and pre-election matters as well as any appeals arising therefrom, that under those Practice Directions, Chief Adeleke had five days within which to file his argument, and that Chief Adeleke failed to deny APC’s sworn affidavit that Chief Adeleke filed his written argument outside the time allowed by the Practice Directions, thereby admitting the allegation.

The justices further confirmed that from the court’s records, Chief Adeleke indeed filed his argument on 8 November 2022 whereas the deadline for filing was 7 November 2022. The justices remarked that because of the special nature of election and pre- election mattes, the law does not allow the court to extend time for the filing of argument or the doing of any act in election and pre-elections. Following decided cases like Tony Okechukwu v. INEC & 25 Ors. (2014) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1436) 352, the court held Chief Adeleke’s written brief of argument to be incompetent and accordingly struck it out for being incompetent.

In determining the substance of the appeal, the Court of Appeal considered whether the trial court was right to have assumed jurisdiction over Chief Adeleke’s suit in the first place.

Referring to section 285 (9) of the Constitution, the words of which the court stated are unambiguous and allows aspirants only fourteen (14) days to file pre-election cases. The court held that Chief Adeleke’s complaint was triggered on 27 May 2022 but his suit was filed outside the period of 14 days stipulated by the Constitution for the filing of pre-election matters. Accordingly, the Federal High Court lacked jurisdiction to entertain his claim, and was wrong to have adjudicated the dispute.

The Court of Appeal therefore allowed the APC’s appeal, set aside the judgement of the Feseral High Court, dismissed Chief Adeleke’s case, and reinstated Hon Isiaq Akinlade as APC’s authentic candidate in the coming 2023 elections for the Egbado South/Ipokia Federal Constituency.

Commenting on the development, the State Publicity Secretary of the APC, Tunde Oladunjoye, stated that “justice has been served. We knew we had a strong case, that was why we approached the Appeal Court and now that it is resolved in our favour, our candidate can commence his campaign in full blast, devoid of distractions”.

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