Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo of the Federal High Court Abuja has twice disappeared on the days of ruling in a suit to stop the inauguration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu as president. The suit, No. FHC/ABJ/CS/578/222, was instituted against the Attorney General of the Federation and the Chief Justice of the Federation on April 28, 2023, by some five residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), acting for themselves and “representing other residents and registered voters of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja excepting those exempting themselves.”
On the first scheduled day of ruling on May 24, 2023, the suit was listed for ruling in the court’s register, but the judge was nowhere to be seen. The ruling was then rescheduled for May 26, 2023, but when the lawyer to the plaintiffs, Barrister Chuks Nwachukwu of Indemnity Partners, arrived at the court, the registry informed him that Justice Ekwo was attending a conference, even though the suit was listed for the day, and that a new date will be communicated to him.
The plaintiffs’ first question for determination in the suit is whether they, and other residents of the FCT, have the legal rights to be heard on whether the person to be declared elected as president, and consequently the administrator of the FCT through the Minister of the FCT, is mandated by Section 134(2)(b) of the constitution to obtain at least 25 percent of the votes cast in the FCT.
Another question for determination is, whether the court may restrain the swearing in of any person on May 29, 2023, or at any other date until the issue of obtaining 25 percent of the votes cast in the FCT has been determined with finality.
The plaintiffs then sought the court to declare that no candidate can be declared winner of the February 25, 2023, presidential election, and be sworn in as president on May 29, 2023, without obtaining 25 percent of the votes cast in the FCT. The plaintiffs also sought the court to declare that until the issue of the 25 percent of votes cast in FCT is finally settled, President Muhammadu Buhari should continue to serve as president and commander in chief in accordance with the provisions of Section 135 (1)(a) of the Constitution.
In the reliefs sought, the suit asked the court to give an order setting aside any declaration and/or any certificate of return issued in the February 25, 2023 presidential election, and restrain the chief justice of the federation or any other judicial officer or authority or person from swearing in any candidate in the February 25, 2023 presidential election as president or vice-president until the issues raised in the suit are judicially determined with finality.