Sunday, 17 September 2017

Recall:Dino Melaye Refused To Be Served Court Papers

Dino Melaye
Senator Dino Melaye has refused service of a copy of the petition and other accompanying documents that informed the commencement of the process of his recall from the Senate by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court in Abuja had last week, while dismissing Melaye’s suit ordered that he (Melaye) be served the documents to enable him prepare for the stakeholders’ meeting for the commencement of the verification exercise within two weeks from the date of the delivery of the judgment.

The Senator had filed a suit seeking an order of the court stopping INEC from commencing his recall process from the Senate.

It was  gathered at the weekend that attempts to serve Melaye the documents as ordered by the court proved abortive, alleging that the Senator was evading service.

Counsel to the electoral body in the suit, Yunus Ustaz Usman told Tribune Online that Dino’s secretary at the Senate refused to accept the documents on behalf of the Senator from the bailiff of the court, saying that there was no instruction to that effect from the Senator.

Similarly, security guard at Dino’s house, who denied the bailiff of the court entrance to the house also refused to accept the documents which was to be served on Dino last week Thursday.

“Following this development, we have filed a Motion Exparte before the court for an order to serve the Senator through substituted means”, INEC lawyer told Tribune Online.

The senior counsel said an affidavit showing the futile attempts by the court. Bailiff to serve Dino with the petition and other accompanying documents are attached with the Motion Exparte for the consideration of the court.

Dimgba held in his judgment that constituents of Kogi West Senatorial District were under no constitutional obligation to avail Melaye a copy of their recall petition as claimed by the lawmaker.

According to the Judge, “The duty of an aggrieved electorate is to submit a petition backed by appropriate signatures to the electoral body, while the duty of the 1st defendant (INEC) is well-defined, which is to verify the signatures, and if satisfied that they are genuine and the number meets the constitutional threshold, then it is to proceed to conduct a referendum for the recall of the legislator.

Melaye, in his amended originating summon filed on August 7, 2017, had challenged the petition for his recall on the grounds that INEC violated the rule of natural justice and fair hearing by not giving him a copy of the petition and other accompanying documents.

But the trial Judge, on his judgment held that the electoral umpire was not under any constitutional obligation to oblige Dino Melaye the documents.

The court held that Melaye’s claim that, “majority of the signatures/signatories to the petition are non-existent, dead and forged,” were untrue.

The court also disclosed that the 90 day period for the completion of the recall process was not sacrosanct, adding that the recall process for Senator Melaye paused on July 6, 2017, when Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court in Abuja made an order halting the recall process.

Justice Dimgba said the 90 day period had resumed on Monday, the day the verdict was delivered.

Meanwhile, the Senator had appealed Justice Dimgba’s judgment dismissing his suit seeking to stop INEC from commencing his recall process from the Senate.

Melaye, in a notice of appeal filled at the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal is asking for the setting aside of the judgement delivered on September 11, 2017 on eight grounds.

According to the notice of appeal, filled yesterday, the lawmaker said the trial judge erred in law when it held that the petition presented to INEC for his recall was valid, even when the petition exhibited by the electoral body was not signed by more than half of the registered voters in his constituency as required by Section 69 of the constitution.

He said Justice Dimgba erred in law to hold that the 90 days provided for by the constitution was paused since June 23, 2017 when he commenced the legal action and subsequently ordered that the period would continue to run from September 11, the date of the judgment of the trial court, even when such relief was not sought by any of the partners in the suit.

The lawmaker wants the appellate court to, among other things, declare the petition purportedly presented to INEC for his recall as illegal, unlawful, wrongfully, unconstitutional, invalid, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.

Melaye is also praying the Court of Appeal to declare the recall process as illegal and unlawful and that the court should stop his recall process.

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