The Federal High Court in Abuja, has dissolved a non-governmental organisation, the Incorporated Trustees of Rights for All International for abandoning its charitable purposes to challenge the legality of the primary election of Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar, both of the All Progressive Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party respectively.
Justice Inyang Ekwo passed the judgment on Thursday, in an application challenging the special national conventions of the APC and PDP for allegedly violating the Electoral Act, 2022.
Former Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba was the second plaintiff in the case while their legal representative was Mr. Okere Nnamdi.
Okere had asked the court to declare “all the votes cast in favor of the Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar at the special national convention of the APC and PDP held on 6th and 7th of June 2022 and on the 28th and 29th of May 2022 respectively as illegal, null and void and of no effect whatsoever on the grounds of corruption, buying and selling of delegates votes and voter inducement.”
The lawyer also sought an order canceling and setting aside the votes scored by the duo, alleging grounds of illegality and voter inducement by Tinubu and Atiku.
Defendants in the matter include the APC, PDP, the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, and the Independent National Electoral Commission.
But the APC and PDP asked the court to strike out the suit for lack of jurisdiction and the plaintiff’s lack of locus standi ( no right to appear in court).
Atiku Abubakar’s lawyer urged the judge to strike out his name from the case.
But Okere contended that the NGO was registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission and has the right to challenge public interest matters.
Giving his judgment on Thursday, Ekwo held that there is no provision in the Companies and Allied Matters Act, CAMA, that allows an NGO to take action outside its purview.
He maintained that an NGO is largely created for charitable purposes.
“In this case, the plaintiff which is supposed to be an association under CAC is challenging issues bordering on political matters,” Ekwo said agreeing with the defendants that the NGO had no business being in court in the first place.
“I, therefore, hold that by provisions of CAMA, the first plaintiff (NGO) cannot initiate this action, in other words, the plaintiff lacks locus standi to bring this case,” the judge said.
On the second defendant, Nwajiuba, the judge observed that he indeed contested the primary election of the APC and scored one vote and had the right to come and testify.
But the judge wondered why the former education minister did not personally provide evidence in court as an eyewitness but sent a group that did not participate at the convention to file the case on his behalf.
“Overall, the lack of locus standi of the first plaintiff has affected the second plaintiff. I make an order striking out the matter for lack of locus standi of the plaintiffs,” Ekwo said.
Not done, Ekwo also found out the NGO that filed the suit was created and registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission by the same lawyer who filed the suit before him.
Ekwo said that Okere being a lawyer, engaged in illegality by using his association to undertake a political agenda contrary to the provisions of CAMA.
“It is only in this country that an association registered for charitable purposes will be used for politics,” Ekwo said.
He advised that at a time in the political journey of Nigeria, politics and political activities must be left to those who are authorized by law to do so.
He said that a group created under CAC is bound to be dissolved if it acts contrary to public policy which guides the activities of associations registered under Part F of the CAMA 2020.
His words,” The actions by the 1st plantiff (NGO) is an outrageous act to all known principles of the law of associations.
” The court is bound to make appropriate consequential order in the circumstance of this case.
“I, therefore, make an order dissolving the first plaintiff forthwith.
“The CAC is hereby ordered to take over the dissolved 1st plaintiff and deal with it in accordance with the provisions of the law on dissolution of bodies registered pursuant to Part F of the CAMA 2022.”