A Federal Capital Territory High Court, Bwari division, has voided the report of the Commission of Enquiry set up by Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, which barred Kayode Fayemi from holding public office for 10 years.
The Ekiti State Government had, through the commission of enquiry, investigated the tenure of Mr Fayemi as governor between 2010 and 2014, and found him culpable in the mismanagement of funds belonging to the state government.
Mr Fayemi, during the investigative hearing, refused to appear before the commission, citing a court action he filed against the probe.
However, the judgment delivered on Tuesday in Abuja followed a case filed by the Action Peoples Party (APP), challenging the eligibility of Mr Fayemi to contest the office of Governor of Ekiti State on the grounds that he has been indicted by the commission.
The judge, O.A. Musa, dismissed the suit by the APP on the grounds that it was without merit.
The plaintiff had argued among others, that Mr Fayemi’s indictment by the commission of inquiry set up by the state government to probe his administration, and the white paper issued by the state based on the indictment, had disqualified him from holding public office by virtue of Section 182(1)(i) of the Constitution.
Mr Musa held that the process leading to the report and white paper was tainted with bias as Mr Fayemi, a gubernatorial candidate in the July 14 election in Ekiti, was not accorded fair hearing.
The judge noted that Section 182(1)(i) of the Constitution, on which the suit was based, was no longer in existence having been deleted by the National Assembly through the first alteration of the Constitution in 2011.
Justice Musa who answered the two questions posed by the plaintiff in the negative, refused all its prayers and declared that Mr Fayemi was eligible to contest the next governorship election and that the APC was at liberty, under the law to field him as its candidate.
He upheld the arguments of Mr Fayemi and the APC that the provisions of Section 182(1)(i) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) having been repealed by the First Alteration to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria left the plaintiff without a leg to stand on, since the basis of their case was the provision of section 182(1) (i) of the 1999 Constitution as amended which had ceased to exist.
The judge further held that assuming he was wrong on his findings that Section 182(1) of the Constitution had not been repealed, he would still resolve the questions of the eligibility of Mr Fayemi to contest against the plaintiff because the Supreme Court had settled the matter in the celebrated cases of Atiku vs. AC and Amaechi vs. INEC where the Supreme Court held that an indictment by a commission of inquiry or administrative panel cannot stop a citizen of Nigeria to contest any election without been tried and convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction.
Accordingly, the court concluded that since there is no record of conviction of Mr Fayemi before the court, he is qualified to contest for the office of the Governor of Ekiti State.
Mr Fayemi’s counsel, Rafiu Balogun, has hailed the judgment, saying it was sound and “met the justice of the case.”
“It is appalling that Ekiti State Government turned itself to a court of law and purportedly barred Dr Fayemi for ten years when he was only invited as a witness and never re-invited when his preliminary objection to challenge his appearance was dismissed,” he said.
The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Idowu Adelusi, in his reaction, said even though the Peoples Democratic Party did not file the action against the APC candidate, he believed that the APP still had the right of appeal up to the Supreme Court.
He said the PDP was not so much interested in the court action, but was focused on defeating Mr Fayemi at the polls on July 14.
“The party that filed the case has the right to appeal the judgement, even up to the Supreme Court,” Mr Adelusi said.
“But we in the PDP are more interested in defeating him at the polls, not disqualifying him using the court.”