The Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday fixed March 19 to commence hearing on seven separate suits seeking to disqualify Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) of the All Progressives Congress, APC, from contesting in the forthcoming presidential election. All the seven cases have been assigned to Justice Ademola Adeniyi who presided over two of the suits yesterday.
However, Buhari and the APC, who are defendants in the suits alongside the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, yesterday, have insisted that they would not accept the service of the court processes because they were not validly served on them. They also challenged the propriety of orders of Justice Adeniyi which had permitted the plaintiffs to serve the originating summons on them through substituted means.
Justice Adeniyi had on February 2, directed that the court processes be served on the defendants by publishing same in three national dailies. Justice Adeniyi also granted an order of abridgment of time within which the defendants must respond to the suits.
However, both Buhari and his party, APC, argued that there was no urgency in the matter to warrant the court to hear the suits in a hurry. In separate preliminary objections filed by counsel to Buhari, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, and that of the APC, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, they both asked the court to set-aside all the orders it has made in the suit so far.
They further argued that the subject matter of the suit bothers on pre-election issues which they said is not time bound, adding that it can be determined even after the March 28 presidential election has taken place. However, Chief Mike Ozehkome, SAN, who represented the plaintiffs urged the court to expedite hearing on the matter so as to determine Buhari’s fate before the presidential election.
His submission infuriated Olanipekun, SAN, who argued that the suit challenging the certificate his client (Buhari) submitted to the INEC, has nothing to do with the election itself. “My lord what he is saying is that this case must end before this election. It is a wrong impression. This case has nothing to do with the conduct of the election. What if the presidential election was held on February 14?”, Olanipekun queried.
INEC also through its lawyer Mr. Hassan Liman, SAN, yesterday, said it would file a preliminary objection to challenge both the competence of the suits which were filed by the two plaintiffs, Mr. Chukwunweike Okafor and Mr. Max Ozoaka, as well as the jurisdiction of the court to entertain them.