By Aaron Ossai
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has dismissed the suit filed by Senator Dino Melaye representing Kogi West Senatorial District challenging the validity of the process of recalling him by his constituents.
Delivering judgment on the suit, the presiding judge, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba ordered that the Independent National Electoral Commission “shall proceed with the recall process”.
Justice Dimgba’s judgment has therefore terminated the earlier ex parte order made by another judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja, Justice John Tsoho, on July 6, 2017 which directed parties involved in the matter to maintain the status quo.
He however, ordered that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, “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.”
According to the judge, the 90 days period within which the Constitution ordered INEC to conduct a referendum on receiving the recall petition had been paused since June 23, when Melaye commenced the suit and ordered that the period would only continue running from Monday, September 11, 2017.
Ordering INEC to issue an amended recall timetable giving the Senator a minimum of two weeks to equip him to defend against the recall process, justice Dimgba also ordered that the amended timetable should be served on Melaye.
Justice Dimgba further 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 but he admitted that although the Constitution did not expressly provide that 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.
Describing Melaye’s suit as “hasty, premature and presumptuous” the judge noted that INEC had already scheduled the exercise for the verification of the authenticity of the signatures in support of the petition being complained about by Melaye.
“He must first go into the verification exercise and only when he does not get justice that he can come to court,” Justice Dimgba said as he dismissed the argument that the number of signatures did not meet the threshold stipulated in the Constitution.