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Appeal court imposes ₦40m fine against presidential candidate seeking to stop Tinubu’s inauguration

The Court of Appeal in Abuja on Thursday, declined to stop the swearing-in of the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, on May 29.

The angry justices also slammed a a hefty N40million fine against the appellant.

In a unanimous decision by a three-member panel, the justices described as frivolous, the appeal, which was brought before it by a former presidential candidate of the defunct Hope Democratic Party (HDP) Chief Ambrose Owuru.

It consequently ordered the appellant to pay damages to the tune of N10m, to each of the respondents in the appeal.

The 1st to 4th respondents in the matter, were; President Muhammadu Buhari, the Attorney General of the Federation, the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) as well as Tinubu.

Delivering the lead judgment in the matter, Justice Jamil Tukur, held that the erstwhile presidential candidate, Owuru, engaged in gross abuse of the judicial process.

The appellate court held that the “strange” suit he filed to stop Tinubu’s inauguration as President, was not only vexatious but all aimed to irritate the respondents.

The court held that issues raised by Chief Owuru against Tinubu’s swearing-in, bordered on the presidential election that was held since 2019, which it noted was previously dismissed by the Supreme Court for want of merit.

It held that the attempt by the appellants to resurrect the case that died in 2019, was aimed at pushing the lower courts to embark on a collision course with the Supreme Court.

It, therefore, dismissed the appeal and awarded punitive damages against the appellant.

It will be recalled that the Federal High Court in Abuja had on January 30, also dismissed the suit which Chief Owuru, who is also a legal practitioner, filed to remove President Buhari from office.

In the judgement that was delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo, the trial court maintained that the legal action was baseless, frivolous, irritating and vexatious, adding that the suit had become statute barred since it was based on the presidential election that was held four years ago.

Justice Ekwo further held that the suit was a direct affront to the supremacy of the Supreme Court which had earlier decided a similar request by the plaintiff.

Specifically, Owuru, who was the presidential flag-bearer of the HDP which has since been de-registered by INEC, had approached the court, praying it to sack President Buhari from office, insisting that the election through which he won his re-election in 2019, was fraught with manifest irregularities.

The plaintiff urged the court to declare that he was the authentic person that ought to have been sworn in as President instead of Buhari who contested the said election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

He had among other things, contended that INEC assisted President Buhari to manipulate the outcome of the election against him by shifting the earlier date it fixed for the poll.

Owuru prayed the court to determine the legality or otherwise of INEC’s decision to postpone the election date from February 16 to March 23, 2019.

According to the plaintiff, INEC, acted against the Constitution by “the illegal and unlawful way” the date for the presidential poll was shifted, adding that the declaration of President Buhari as winner of the unlawful act should be declared null and void and of no effect.

Owuru, who is a British-trained lawyer that was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1984, told the court that prior to the postponement of the election, he emerged as the winner of a referendum he said was conducted and monitored by both foreign and local organizations.

He told the court that he had at the end of the said referendum, garnered over 50million votes, which he said was far and above the number of votes that other candidates that contested the presidential election secured.

Owuru argued that the petition he lodged against Buhari after the election was not adjudicated upon by the Supreme Court as required by law.

He claimed that his petition was unjustly dismissed by the apex court following his absence that was occasioned by discrepancy in the hearing date that was served to him.

The appellant urged the high court to validate his case by removing Buhari and declaring him the President.

He further applied for an order to compel President Buhari to refund all monies he “illegally” collected as salaries, emoluments and security votes.

The plaintiff also prayed the court to halt the 2023 presidential election and order his immediate swearing in as President for a four-year tenure of office.

Meanwhile, following the dismissal of his case and the conduct of the presidential election on February 25, Owuru, approached the appellate court to stop the swearing-in of the President-elect, a prayer the court refused on Thursday.

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