A Federal High Court sitting in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, has struck out a suit filed by the Minister of Communications, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, against the All Progressives Congress (APC) over issues with his non-participation in the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) after he graduated from Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, where he studied law.
The National Working Committee (NWC) of APC had prior to the 2019 governorship primary of the party in Oyo State screened out Shittu from eligible governorship aspirants presented for the primary held at the main bowl of Lekan Salami Sports Complex, Adamasingba, Ibadan, last year. He was said to have been screened out because he could not present his NYSC certificate.
Delivering judgment, Justice P.I. Ajoku held that Shittu did not file the case within the time stipulated by law, saying: “I must first consider the provision of Section 285 of the constitution that makes it mandatory for all pre-election matters to be filed within 14 days of the occurrence.
“This particular case was not filed within 14 days, but outside the date. Therefore, I will not bother going into the merit of the case. Having failed to satisfy the dictates of the constitution, the matter is hereby struck out.”
Shittu had in his originating summon introduced himself as a card-carrying member of the APC, the status that gave him the opportunity to contest governorship primary of the party last year. He also told the court that he only read about his disqualification on the pages of the newspapers published on September 28, 2018, based on non-participation in the NYSC scheme for one year.
Shittu further told the court that he tried to explore the internal mechanism of the party to settle the matter, which made him write a petition to the national leadership of APC on his disqualification.
The court, however, held that all the excuses of the plaintiff could not exonerate him from Section 285 (9) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which only gives the plaintiff 14 days to file his suit after the action had been committed.
Justice Ajoku, who made reference to many authorities in support of the judgment, held that the constitution of Nigeria did not make provision for extension of time in an electoral related matter.
Shittu had dragged APC and NYSC to court, praying it to determine whether non-inclusion of his name by APC on the list of cleared governorship aspirants in Oyo State was lawful or a contravention of the constitution.
Shittu, through his counsel, Mr. Abdulhakeem Mustafa (SAN), had tendered a 38-paragraph affidavit and 13 exhibits to support his claims that participation in NYSC is a service to his fatherland while he also served Nigeria through the Constituent Assembly in the late 70s, and that service in the Constituent Assembly could substitute service through NYSC.
Meanwhile, the defence counsel, Mr. Adebayo Ojo, a former attorney-general and commissioner for justice in Oyo State, commended the judgment, saying: “The judge acted by the 1999 Constitution and it is a victory for democracy.”