By Paul Efiong
Lawyers have hailed the judgment of an Abuja High Court which cleared the chairman of Aiteo Oil And Gas, Mr Benedict Peters of any violation of the Electoral Act following donations he made to political parties during 2015 general election.
The lawyers have said the judgement will heavily impact on the 2019 general elections.
Also, civil society groups under the Coalition of Transparent Election Monitors, CTEM, have similarly backed the judgment as one that will further deepen the electoral jurisprudence in the country.
Justice Olukayode Adeniyi of the Abuja High Court had thrown out a suit filed by one Chief Akinmoju Jero who had joined a businessman, Mr Benedict Peters and Northern Belt Oil and Gas Company of Nigeria limited as defendants.
While alleging that Mr. Peters, who is the 1st defendant in the matter paid a bribe of $115million to electoral officers to influence the outcome of the 2015 Presidential election, Chief Jero had sworn to affidavit alleging that the electoral officers who received the bribe have made confessional statements and have also had all their bank accounts blocked.
He also accused Mr. Peters of donating the sum of $60million for the PDP campaign fund for the 2015 Presidential election which is far above the recommended amount of N1million by the electoral act.
However, Barristers Peter Nwelum and Andrew Adams while speaking on the matter said it is now clear that Mr Peters committed no crime when he made the donations and hence ought not to have come under any form of prosecution .
He said that the 2019 elections will be heavily defined by such practice.
While applauding the judgement, Barr Adams asked the EFCC and other anti corruption agencies to steer clear of interfering with the electoral processes saying the Lawyers should be allowed to operate and hence remove the toga of a fugitive labelled on Mr Peters .
On their part , secretary general of CTEM, Mr Dele Aina has said that while it is noteworthy that Mr Peters has been cleared of the accusation against him, the EFCC should be dissuaded from further harassment of the Aiteo boss but begin to join other stakeholders in enlisting a lasting democratic process in the country.
Justice Adeniyi had dismissed the case of the plaintiff for lacking in merit, saying, “The online publication relied upon by the plaintiff is not admissible in law. The evidence is clearly unrelated to the allegation of bribery adduced in this case.
“I have not seen any concrete or factual basis by the plaintiff to support the allegation made against the defendant in this case. The plaintiff has failed to show to the court that the money was donated to influence the outcome of the 2015 Presidential elections.
“The donation made to any political party fors not offend anyprovision of the Electoral Act. The plaintiff has failed to show that the defendants spent $115million to influence the outcome of the election.
He ruled that Benedict Peters did not violate the Electoral Act as his donations were made to a political party and not to an individual .
The ruling cleared Ben Peters of any wrong doing and hence brings to question the incessant harassment by security agencies on his person.
“The defendants did not violate any law by way of hisdonation to political parties which is allowed in law. The purported allegation of bribery against the defendants is unfounded. The plaintiff’s case lacks merit and it is hereby dismissed, “ Justice Adeniyi held.