A Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed the suit by Kogi West Senator, Dino Melaye, challenging the validity of the process of recalling him by his constituents.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, in his judgment, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to proceed with the recall process.
Justice Dimgba’s judgment has, however, terminated the earlier ex parte order made by another judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja, Justice John Tsoho, directing parties to maintain status quo.
Senator Melaye had approached the court ahead of his recall exercise earlier scheduled to begin in July.
Following Mr. Melaye’s application, the court ordered Nigeria’s electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to halt the recall exercise, pending the determination of Mr. Melaye’s application.
But the Justice Dimgba, to whom the case was reassigned on Monday ruled that the process shall only proceed with the recall process, subject to the service of the petition, the full list, and signatures of persons in support of the recall process.
The judge noted that the 90 days period within which the Constitution ordered the INEC to conduct a referendum on receiving the recall petition had been paused since June 23, when Melaye commenced the suit.
He ordered that the period would only continue running from Monday, he also ordered INRC to issue an amended recall timetable giving the senator a minimum of two weeks to equip him to defend against the recall process.
And that the amended timetable should be served to Senator Dino Melaye.
In his judgment, Justice Dimgba held that contrary to Melaye’s contention, there was no provision in section 69 of the Constitution requiring his constituents to afford him fair hearing before sending such petition to INEC, that the Constitution does not require a special provision that mandates INEC to grant the senator an opportunity of fair hearing.
Justice Dimgba also admitted that although the Constitution did not expressly provide that the INEC must serve the affected legislator with the petition and the accompanying documents, it was required in the spirit of fair hearing so that the legislator could be equipped to fight the recall.
The judge described Melaye’s suit as “hasty, premature and presumptuous” as the INEC had already scheduled the exercise for the verification of the authenticity of the signatures in support of the petition being complained about by Dino Melaye.
“He must first go into the verification exercise and only when he does not get the justice that he can come to court,” Justice Dimgba said.
The judge also dismissed the argument that the number signatures did not meet the threshold stipulated in the Constitution. He insisted that on the face of the statistical analysis accompanying the suit, the number of signatures to kick start the recall process in the Kogi West senatorial district was 188, 588 out of the 360,100 registered voters in the district, had been met.