The trial judge, Justice Nkeonye Evelyn Maha, dismissed Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/1232/2022, instituted by Cecilia Omonya Adams, who had claimed to be the rightful Senatorial candidate.
Ayade had through his counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, argued that MRS CECILIA OMONYA ADAMS who had participated in the May 28 primaries of the APC, but did not participate in the APC primaries of 14th July, 2022, for the Cross River North Senatorial District towards the 2023 General Elections, has no locus standi to approach the court to challenge the candidacy of Governor Ben Ayade who was duly nominated by his APC party during the July 14, 2022 primaries.
The Plaintiff had through an Originating Summons filed on 26th July, 2022, approached the Federal High Court, Abuja, praying amongst others, for “AN ORDER directing the INEC to recognize, accept and publish her name as the candidate of the APC for the Cross River North Senatorial District.
She had also asked, in the ALTERNATIVE, for “AN ORDER directing the APC to conduct another primaries where only those who had bought forms to contest the primaries of 28th May, 2022, will participate; or that the Plaintiff be confirmed and returned as the candidate of the APC for the said election.
Also joined as Co-defendants with Ayade in the suit challenging the APC primaries were the APC, INEC and Martin Orin, who had earlier won the May 28 Senatorial primaries, but had resigned to enable a fresh primaries be conducted by INEC. It was from this fresh primaries that Ayade emerged as the sole contestant and winner on 14th July, 2022.
Justice Maha in her judgment delivered Wednesday, 30th November, 2022, while dismissing the Suit, agreed with the submissions of Chief Ozekhome, SAN, that MRS ADAMS lacked the locus standi to have instituted the suit against Governor Ayade having not participated in the APC primaries of 14th July, 2022, from which Governor Ayade duly emerged as the APC candidate for the Cross River North Senatorial District.
The court held that Mrs ADAMS failed to establish or prove that Ayade was not properly nominated by his party; or that any of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, the Electoral Act, INEC Guidelines, or the Constitution of APC, had in any way been breached by the APC or Ayade in his emergence as the APC Senatorial candidate.
Justice Maha further declined to accept the argument of the plaintiff that the fresh primaries thus held were re-run elections, rather than by-elections.
The court also held that even on the issue of “place holder” which the plaintiff harped on, the Electoral Act was silent on it as it has no provision pertaining to place holder.
The court equally held that there was ample documentary evidence of the conduct of valid primaries in which Ayade who was the duly nominated candidate of the APC, solely participated and won, without evidence of the plaintiff participating in them.
There was equally documentary evidence that the APC duly notified INEC of the primaries conducted on the 14th of July, 2022; and that the requirement of giving notice as contemplated under the Electoral Act is not to notify the plaintiff (Cecilia), but INEC.
Ayade who had earlier in the year won his defection case from PDP to APC against the PDP before Justice Taiwo Obayomi Taiwo in a suit also argued by Ozekhome now has his coast cleared as the APC Senatorial candidate for the 2023 Cross River North Senatorial District.