BY: ESU, EKANEM ENE
Introduction:This afternoon, while surfing the net for news update, my phone was inundated with an unsealed petition emanating from one B. I. Dakum & Co and signed by Bala I. Dakum, Esq. at the behest of some faceless “Concerned All Progressive Congress (APC) Members”, alleging in the main, among other frivolous grounds, that the APC “consensus” candidate, Dist. Senator Bassey Otu is not qualified to contest for the office of the Governor of Cross River State citing with disenchantment the provision of section 182(e) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) as the legal plank upon which their hasty and I’ll conceived complaint is predicated.
For the avoidance of doubt, and the purpose of educating the general public, I take the liberty to excavate and escalate the position of the law hereunder.
Undoubtedly, section 182(e) of the constitution deals with and clearly sets out the criteria for qualification for election into the office of Governor of a state and for clarity of analysis, I shall reproduce the section seriatim:
1) No person shall be qualified for election to the office of Governor of a state if; (a) subject to the provisions of section 28 of this constitution, he has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a country other than Nigeria or, except in such cases as may be prescribed by the National Assembly, he has made a declaration of allegiance to such other country; or(b) he has been elected to such office at any two previous elections;
c) Or under the law in any part of Nigeria, he is adjudged to be a lunatic or otherwise declared to be of unsound mind; or(d) he is under a sentence of death imposed by any competent court of law or tribunal in Nigeria or a sentence of imprisonment for any offence involving dishonesty or fraud (by whatever name called) or any other offence imposed on ithim by any court of tribunal or substituted by a competent authority for any other sentence imposed on him by such a court or tribunal;(e) within a period of less than ten years before the date of election to the office of Governor of a state.
He has been convicted and sentenced for an offence involving dishonesty or he has been found guilty of the contravention of the code of conduct; or(f) he is an undischarged bankrupt, having been adjudged or otherwise declared bankrupt under any law in force in Nigeria; or (g) being a person employed in the public service of the federation or of any state, he has not resigned, withdrawn or retired from the employment at least thirty days to the date of the election;…”
A careful perusal of the ill fated petition by the faceless petitioners reveals that, they are alleging that the APC “consensus” candidate, Dist. Senator Bassey Otu defrauded his former employer, the defunct Mercantile Bank of Nigeria Plc and was convicted in charge No. HC/1010c/1987 and that by the provision of section 182(e) of the constitution, he is not qualified or eligible to contest for the office of Governor of Cross River State.
Without mincing words, the argument put forward by the faceless petitioners, through their lawyer, is legally lame, baseless, immature and frivolous in its entirety.
Perhaps, the hurried conclusion by the petitioners is, largely, a function of their inability to have a good grasp of the provision of section 182(e) of the constitution which they cited and the alleged judgment in Charge No. HC/1010c/1987 which they wrongly relied upon.
Apropos the argument of the faceless petitioners, and assuming without conceding to their allegation, can one legally sustain the argument that Senator Bassey Otu should be disqualified from contesting for the office of Governor of Cross River State in view of the provision of section 182(e) of the constitution and in the light of the alleged conviction in charge No. HC/1010c/1987?
The answer is a resounding NO! Assuming but not conceding that their allegation in charge No. HC/1010c/1987 is anything to go by, the APC “consensus” candidate, Dist. Senator Otu is sufficiently and adequately insulated by the self same section 182(e) of the constitution which the petitioners seek to rely upon.
The section provides in no uncertain language that, a person shall be disqualified from contesting for the office of the Governor if within a period of not less than ten (10) years before the date of election to the office of the Governor of a state he has been convicted and sentenced for an offence involving dishonesty or he has been found guilty of the contravention of the code of conduct.
It therefore, follows without equivocation that, anyone convicted for the offences named in section 182(e) of the constitution can contest for the office of Governor after the expiration of ten years counting from the date of conviction.
It must be noted that the limitation period here is 10 years, nothing more. Thus, the alleged charge No. HC/1010c/1987 brandished and heavily relied on by the faceless petitioners indicates that the charge was instituted in 1987 (although the date of alleged conviction not disclosed yet which may not be more than 5 years from 1987), which is clearly 35 or 30 years ago (as the case may be) and cannot be used in law to disqualify Senator Bassey Otu from contesting for the office of Governor of Cross River State. See also the case of APC v. PDP (2015) 15 NWLR (pt. 1481).
In conclusion, the petition is statute barred, faceless and can only be thrown into a trash can where it rightfully belong.
BY ESU, EKANEM ENE, Esq