The Senator representing Kogi West, Senator Dino Melaye, will appeal today’s ruling by the Federal High Court in Abuja, which reactivated the process for his recall.
Today’s judgment by Justice Nnamdi Dimgba effectively terminated the earlier ex parte order made by Justice John Tsoho which halted the recall process and Senator Melaye and his lawyer, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome, said they will appeal it.
“The only aspect that we will probably appeal is the aspect that there was no constitutional requirement by INEC as the adjudicator to give a fair hearing to the person being recalled. I am happy that Mr Soyebi, the INEC’s spokesperson has said ‘Oh, we will give them a copy of the petition for the purpose of fair hearing,” Ozekhome said when he appeared on Channels Television’s Politics Today.
“The beauty about this decision is that the court essentially agreed with us. Our major complaint is that Dino Melaye was never even given a copy of this petition to peep into the schedule of the signatories to the petition to recall him. When he went to his constituency, all his constituents that he asked said ‘No, we didn’t append our signatures’.”
While Ozekhome is not interested in the politics behind the recall process, like his client, he alleged that the move was politically motivated.
He said, “Let me make clear again another point which some people don’t seem to know. There is Section 68, subsection 2 of the Constitution still awaiting all the players. Whether they were political motivated or not, Dino Melaye has argued in his case that it is politically motivated because he has issues with the governor.
“Section 68, subsection 2 – what many of them have never looked at is that in this checks and balances (doctrine of separation of powers) the executive has done its own by trying to recall Dino, the judiciary the judiciary has done its own today which decision will be appealed tomorrow.
Some of the constituents claimed they were deceived into signing the petition as people came to them under the guise of distributing fertilizer to them, according to Mr Ozekhome.
“They did not know it was for the purpose of a recall,” he said, adding that some of the constituents said they saw the names of their deceased relatives on the petition.
Based on this and in the spirit of fair hearing, Mr Ozekhome said it was important for Senator Melaye to review the signatories to determine whether they are genuine or fictitious.
Indeed, Justice Dimgba in his ruling today ordered INEC to serve Senator Melaye a copy of the petition with the schedule of signatures and list of petitioners. He also asked INEC to amend the recall timetable to give the plaintiff at least two weeks to prepare.
The court then dismissed all other prayers sought by the Senator.
Should Senator Melaye be unsatisfied with the petition after reviewing it, he has a right to go back to court.
Ozekhome said, “Let me quickly put this caveat so that others will get prepared when the battle comes up. If INEC now gives a copy of the petition to Dino Melaye and Dino Melaye now studies it and discovers that there are fictitious names there, there are names from Kogi East or Kogi North instead of Kogi West alone that is his constituency, that some of them are dead, that some of them were simulated and simply adopted from the register of INEC and pasted there, let me enter the caveat, Dino Melaye again has a right to go to court again under Section 6 of the Constitution to ventilate his grievances.”
Melaye had sued the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on June 23, and asked the court to nullify the process of his recall by declaring the petition presented to INEC as unlawful.
Two weeks later, on July 6, Justice John Tsoho gave him a temporary respite by making a temporary restraining order on the recall process and directing all parties to maintain status quo.
However, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, in his judgment today has put the process back on track.
Those calling for Melaye’s recall represents 52.3 percent of registered voters in the constituency.
A total of 188,588 – representing 52.3 percent of the 360,098 registered voters in the constituency “signed” the petition for Senator Melaye’s recall.
Only 79,268 people however voted in the election that took Melaye to the Senate.
At the poll, Melaye secured 41,120 votes to defeat Smart Adeyemi who ran on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party but is now a member of the APC. Adeyemi got 38,148 votes in the election.
Melaye had since faulted the petition, saying many of those that signed it were not his constituents.