A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Monday declined to make an order of status quo ante that would have suspended the local government elections in Lagos scheduled for Saturday, July 24, 2021.
Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke, rather, adjourned till November 29, proceedings in the suit filed by an All Progressives Congress (APC) chairmanship aspirant Raheem Rasaki Alani.
The judge gave the ruling after upholding the argument of counsel to the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC), Mr Kemi Pinheiro, SAN.
Joined as first and second defendants/respondents in the suit numbered FHC/L/CS/677/2021 are the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and LASIEC.
Alani is seeking, among others, to restrain INEC from making the register for Lagos’ 20 Local Government Areas (LGA) available, arguing that LASIEC ought to conduct the election in accordance with the “constitutionally-recognised” LGAs in Lagos, and not based on the 57 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) created by the state.
But Pinheiro has filed a preliminary objection on behalf of LASIEC praying the court to strike out and or dismiss the suit in its entirety.
At the resumption of proceedings on Monday, some political parties including the African Action Congress (AAC), African Peoples Movement (APM) and BOOT informed the court of their intention to join as plaintiffs.
Responding, Pinheiro prayed the court to adjourn proceedings till after the annual vacation of the court because, among others, the intending parties who said they had filed a notice to join the suit, had yet to serve him and until that was done, the case could not go on.
He argued further that the failure of any party to comply with the law guiding the issue of service would rob the court of jurisdiction to entertain the case because “service is very fundamental before a case can be properly adjudicated on.”
When Alani’s counsel Mr Taiwo Alabi suggested that given the development, it was reasonable that the court should issue an order of status quo ante bellum i.e. parties should stay action until the determination of the case pending in court, Pinheiro opposed him.
He submitted that Alabi’s offer was a trap “which the court must not fall for” adding that the Appeal Court had stated on different occasions that the court should not entertain that type of approach.
“How can the plaintiff in the face of various applications for joinder filed by different parties which are yet to be served on me, and a motion challenging the jurisdiction of the court from entertaining the case filed by us, be seeking the order of status quo?
“I pray the court to adjourn further proceedings in this case till after the annual vacation of the court which is starting on the 26th of July,” Pinheiro added.
Granting his application, Justice Aneke adjourned till November 29 for the hearing of all applications.
He advised the plaintiff to approach the vacation judge during vacation.