He Court of Appeal in Abuja on Thursday imposed a heavy fine on a former presidential candidate in the previous 2019 election cycle who sued to stop the inauguration of president-elect Bola Tinubu on May 29.
The court awarded a 40 million naira fine to Ambrose Owuru, a lawyer, for filing a “strange” and “frivolous” lawsuit.
Mr. Owuru, who ran and lost the 2019 presidential election on the platform of his now-defunct Hope Democratic Party (HDP), had strangely urged the court to order him to be sworn in as president instead of Tinubu.
The lawyer, who did not participate in the last 2023 presidential election, anchored the sentence by claiming that he won the 2019 presidential election but was unfairly deprived of his victory.
The former presidential candidate had contested his defeat in the presidential electoral tribunal and later in the Supreme Court, losing in both forums.
In dismissing the lawsuit in October 2019, the Supreme Court described it as frivolous and an abuse of judicial process.
After Tinubu was announced as the winner of the 2023 presidential election, Owuru wove another lawsuit out of the facts of his 2019 case.
He filed the new complaint with the Abuja Federal High Court, joining President Muhammadu Buhari, the Federation Attorney General, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Mr. Tinubu as defendants.
He lost the case, but defiantly appealed to the Abuja Court of Appeal.
A three-member panel of the Abuja Court of Appeal dismissed the suit in a unanimous decision on Thursday.
Reading the panel’s main ruling, Jamil Tukur said that Mr. Owuru’s lawsuit was a gross abuse of the judicial process.
The judge said that Mr. Owuru’s complaint against the 2019 presidential election was not only bizarre but unjustified as his complaints had been taken all the way to the Supreme Court and were dismissed for lack of merit.
Mr Tukur said Mr Owuru’s attempt to revive his dead case could put the lower court on a collision course with the Supreme Court, which had ruled on the matter.
The judge said that it was therefore an infuriating lawsuit deliberately packaged to provoke the defendants.
He was then ordered to pay a fine of N10 million each to the four defendants: Mr. Buhari, the AGF, INEC and Mr. Tinubu. The fine amounts to 40 million naira.
At last Friday’s appeal hearing, neither Mr. Buhari nor the Attorney General were represented by a lawyer in court.
Despite receiving a notice of hearing, Mr. Buhari, whose second term as president ends on May 29, did not file any court papers.
But the election referee’s lawyer, Hassan Halilu, urged the court to dismiss the suit as frivolous.
Mr. Owuru claims to be the postponed “constitutional winner” of the 2019 presidential election.
Mr. Halilu further informed the court that Mr. Owuru’s case “is baseless and vexing”.
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Mr. Tinubu’s lawyer, Adelani Ajibade of the law firm of Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, argued that Mr. Owuru’s claim “is bizarre and baseless”.
He said the plaintiff’s case lacks merit and should be dismissed.
The lawyer informed the court that Mr. Owuru’s claim to have won in 2019 had been overturned by a Supreme Court ruling that quashed his petition to challenge Mr. Buhari’s victory.
Mr. Ajibade prayed for the case to be dismissed with a cost of N20 million to be imposed on Mr. Owuru and in favor of the defendants.
The plaintiff urged the court to prevent Mr. Buhari, AGF and INEC from taking steps to facilitate Mr. Tinubu’s swearing-in within 10 days.
Mr. Owuru argued that neither Mr. Tinubu nor anyone else should succeed Mr. Buhari, because he has yet to complete his four-year statutory term as President of Nigeria.
MR Owuru accused the outgoing president of usurping his mandate since 2019.
He falsely claimed that the Supreme Court had not ruled on his petition against Buhari’s 2019 victory.
“A prohibition order that compels Buhari, AGF and INEC, their servants, agents… to undertake or participate in any act of usurpation of the acquired constitutional rights awarded and the mandate as winner of the 2019 presidential elections,” they showed. Mr. Owuru’s court documents. urging the court
In addition, he requested an order ordering and serving any form of handover inauguration, organized and supervised by Mr. Buhari on May 29, 2023 to be his “declared winner” of the 2019 presidential election.
Meanwhile, the appeals court evicted Mr. Owuru from the inner bar, the front section of the court reserved exclusively for Senior Lawyers Nigeria (SAN).
Appearing in the courtroom on Friday, the appeal court panel saw Mr. Owuru sitting in the reserved seat.
Mr. Tukur, who chaired the panel, asked Mr. Owuru to vacate the position, wondering when he was awarded the prestigious title of SAN.
Attempts by Mr. Owuru to persuade the judges to allow him to hold on to the seat were rebuffed.
Mr. Owuru was called to the Nigerian Bar Association 40 years ago.
The lawyer, despite his meager votes in the previous election, had challenged the victory of outgoing President Buhari in the 2019 election. His case failed spectacularly as it was dismissed by the Presidential Election Appeal Court.
Mr. Owuru took the case all the way to the Supreme Court, which also dismissed the claim as “a gross abuse of judicial process”.