A frontline lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, has asked the Port Harcourt Division of a Federal High Court, to dismiss or strike out a suit instituted by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, against the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Social Democratic Party, SDP, alongside others over non-payment of filing fees.
Other respondents in the suit brought pursuant to Order 26 Rules 1 and 2 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2019, Order 7 Rule 1 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Pre-election) Practice Directions 2022 and under the inherent powers of the court are Prince Nwafor, Gokana Geoffrey M, Dagogo A Green, Jonathan Excellent Joy-Success, Lawson Ibiso Sarah, Deinma Bridget Tamunobelema, Goteh Amegua, Hon. Vincent C Solomon, Progress Ikechi Ayiteh, Gibson Ukuoma, Mr. Pamarieri Tobin, Obua Sampson Amobi and Hon. King Tony Gboms.
The Plaintiff, PDP, in the suit specifically prayed the court to declare that the 2nd, 3rd to 16th defendants are not entitled to participate in 2023 General Elections in respect of the elective positions into membership of the Senate, House of Representatives and State House of Assembly for any of the constituencies in Rivers State or to nominate, sponsor or field any of the defendants as candidates in the forthcoming 2023 general elections, “having failed to hold valid primaries for the nomination of it’s candidates, as required by law and the Guidelines of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
However in the legal action, the Lagos-based lawyer is specifically praying the court for an order striking out or dismissing the suit for non-payment of filing fees and on the ground that the court lacks jurisdiction.
The SAN initiated the action designated FHC/PH/CS/132/2022 on the grounds that the plaintiff did not pay any filing fees on the 7th of July, 2022 to file the purported Originating Summons in the matter.
“That the plaintiff and some of the staff of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt Judicial Division fraudulently endorsed that the Originating process in the matter was filed on the 7th of July, 2022, irrespective of the fact that no filing fees was paid for the filing of the Originating Summons on the 7th of July 2022.
“That payment of filing fees is a pre-condition to or condition precedent to the court’s assumption of jurisdiction. Thus, payment of filing fees is a pre-condition to the validity of the Originating Summons.
“That the Originating Summons in this matter which was purportedly filed on the 7th of July, 2022 without payment of filing fees on the 7th of July, 2022 is grossly incompetent and this court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain this suit.”
The Defendant/Applicants in the suit claimed that the Plaintiff and some staff of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt Division, fraudulently endorsed that the Originating Summons in the suit was filed on 7th of July 2022 irrespective of the fact that no filing fee was paid for the filing of the Originating Summons.
The Defendant/Applicant argued that the plaintiffs fraudulently used the payment Remita Retrieval Reference, RRR, number 330679620750 to purportedly file the suit and deceitfully backdated the date of filing to the 7th of July 2022 and that the payment for the Remita actually was done on 8th of July 2022 which is more than 14 days from the 26th of May when the second defendant’s primary election was held.
It was further argued that the payment of the RRR was done outside the Constitutionally prescribed 14 days provided for in Section 285(9) of the 1999 Constitution as amended for paying and filing Pre-election matters, adding that since no filing fees was paid on 7th of July 2022, the plaintiffs suit which was filed on 7th of July 2022 is “incompetent and irredeemably dead”.
Sequel to the above, the Plaintiff Applicant is praying the court to hold that it lacks jurisdiction to entertain and determine the Plaintiff’s suit.
The matter has been adjourned until November 7, 2022 for mention.