The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Monday, refused to shield the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emiefele, from being disqualified to contest for the presidential ticket of any political party ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Mr Emefiele’s lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, earlier on Monday, urged the court to issue an interim order stopping the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) from disqualifying him from participating in the primary election of his preferred political party.
But ruling on the ex parte application, the judge, Ahmed Mohammed, ruled that he would rather order INEC and the AGF to appear to state their side of the case instead of granting the CBN governor’s request.
The judge said having read the affidavit in support of the motion, it was more appropriate to direct the defendants to appear in court on May 12, to show cause why Mr Emefiele’s request should not be granted.
The court also ordered that Mr Emefiele’s filings should be served on the defendants before the next hearing date.
Mr Ozekhome filed the ‘ex-parte’ application on May 9 (Monday) for an order of court for maintenance of status quo, fearing that Mr Emefiele might be disqualified from running in the presidential primaries.
PREMIUM TIMES reported earlier how Mr Emefiele filed the main suit on May 5, through his lawyer, Mike Ozekhome.
The lawyer argued in the suit that no law exempted him from contesting the primary election of any political party as a sitting CBN governor.
“The plaintiff is legally competent to contest the primaries of any political parties while still serving as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, in so far as he gives 30 days’ notice of his resignation, withdrawal from the services of the CBN as its governor in accordance with the provisions of section 167 and 318 of the constitution,” the plaintiff’s lawyer said.
Pressure has mounted on Mr Emefiele to step down from office since the information about his presidential ambition leaked to the public earlier this year.
In February, a PREMIUM TIMES editorial called on Mr Emefiele to resign and pursue his political ambition, if he had any, or publicly distance himself from groups clamouring for him to contest the forthcoming presidential election scheduled to hold on February 25.
Mr Emefiele spoke, on Saturday, for the first time on his reported plan to run for the presidency in the 2023 election.
He spoke after reports that a group had purchased the N100 million worth of presidential nomination and expression of interest forms of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for him.
He said although he had yet to decide to contest the presidential election, should he heed the call to run for the presidency, he would use his “own hard-earned savings from over 35 years of banking leadership to buy my own Nomination Forms”.
In his suit confirming his political ambition, Mr Emefiele sued the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Attorney-General of the Federation asking the court to restrain them from compelling him to resign as the CBN governor to run for office in 2023.
His lawyer, Mr Ozekhome, expressed fears that the INEC and the AGF are making “frantic efforts to disqualify” Mr Emefiele “from participating in the presidential primaries scheduled for June 3 2022, for not resigning from his office before the parties primaries.”
At the sitting on Monday, Mr Ozekhome argued that by Wednesday May 11, the timeline for the collection of expression of interest form for the presidential poll will expire.
“The timeline for the primaries, congresses or conventions of political parties for the presidential election which the applicant is interested in, comes up on the 30th of May and June 1.
“We are not asking for an injunction, but due to the urgency of the matter, the applicant needs the protection and canopy of justice to stop the matter from being rendered nuggatory and a fait accompli foisted on the applicant, if the court does not issue an order,” he said.
An affidavit of urgency in support of the exparte application stated that the Plaintiff/Applicant is the current Governor of the CBN and “desires to contest election for the office of the President in 2023.
According to Mr Ozekhome, “The applicant is in a dilemma as to whether to run for the 2023 presidential election or not, and therefore has come to court for interpretation of section 318 of the Constitution.
“Being a public servant, is the applicant a political appointee that is also cut in the web of section 84(12) of the Electoral Act?
Mr Ozekhome also argued that the said section 84(12) of the Electoral Act has been struck down by Justice Evelyn Anyadike of the Federal High Court Umuahia.
“Though, the matter is on appeal,” Mr Emefiele’s lawyer acknowledged.
Mr Ozekhome argued that the constitution, which is the grand norm of the land, permits a political appointee with an ambition to contest an election to do so at least 30 days to the election.
He, therefore, urged the court to order for the maintenance of status quo, pending the determination of the motion on notice.
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