ABUJA – IN spite of the court ruling barring the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from conducting gubernatorial elections in five states of the federation in the forth coming election, the commission has included the states in its preparations for the governorship elections scheduled for April 16, 2011.
Justice Adamu Bello of the Abuja High Court had ruled that the tenure of governors Timipre Sylva, Bayelsa; Liyel Imoke, Cross River; Ibrahim Idris, Kogi; Aliyu Wamakko, Sokoto; and Murtala Nyako, Adamawa, would end in 2012, instead of this year as widely assumed by INEC.
The ruling has engendered confusion in the polity prompting INEC to file an appeal to challenge the decision of the court.
INEC’s National Commissioner in charge of Public Affairs, Prince Solomon Soyebi, told Vanguard in Abuja, before the commission filed its appeal, Wednesday, that “as at now, we are observing the extant ruling of the courts pending when the commission files an appeal and the appeal is determined.”
Soyebi said that though the commission would not do anything to undermine the ruling of the court, “the commission is not taking anything for granted.” He, however, did not expatiate.
Sources in the commission, however, informed Vanguard that in all its preparations for the April elections the issue of not holding elections in the affected states was never an issue as the commission was positive that its view would prevail in court.
Vanguard was told: “INEC has factored in preparations for the affected states in order to ensure that it would not have to start behind schedule. In the likely case that the commission wins its appeal (and we are optimistic that we would win), we would not have to begin all over again. It is better to err on the side of caution” one source told Vanguard yesterday evening.
Stay of execution
It will be recalled that following the order of the Abuja high court, INEC filed an appeal challenging the decision of the lower court as well as for a stay of execution of the order of the court.
Counsel to the commission, Dame Carol Ajie, in an application filed on behalf of INEC said it was in the interest of justice and fairness for the governorship poll to hold in the affected states.
The commission argued in the application that, “In the case of the five Respondent Governors (Adamawa, Bayelsa, Cross River, Kogi and Sokoto) after their elections were nullified by the court on grounds of electoral misconduct and irregularities, a rerun election was ordered in which they contested and won again. Some won with larger margins amid wide protests.
It further argued that “Conducting elections in their respective states along with others who came into office the same time as the Respondent Governors did (i.e. May 29, 2007) will not cause any of the participants any harm or prejudice but shutting out other contestants would cause a greater hardship”.
Grounds of appeal
In its eight ground of appeal, INEC said:
•Both the principles enunciated in the cases of Obi vs. INEC and Ladoja vs. INEC and two others do not support the erroneous conclusion reached by the Learned Trial Judge that the re-run tenures for the governors of the five states would start afresh under Section 180(2) of the 1999 Constitution.
•A period of interruption leading to a rerun election as a result of a previous election adjudged by a court of competent jurisdiction as fundamentally flawed and fraught with irregularities cannot be construed to benefit the same holder of the same public office.
• The ratio decided in Obi vs. INEC (supra) was misunderstood and misapplied by the Learned Trial Judge.
•To count four years from when the Respondents won their rerun election and subsequently re_sworn was a strange importation into the clear wording and interpretation of Section 180(2) of the 1999 Constitution and amounts to tenure elongation, an act never contemplated by the draft persons.
•When governors have taken Oaths of Allegiance and Oaths of Office, the same one, the same wording as the one taken before a rerun election in which they are beneficiaries, such governors cannot seek to extend their tenures ad abundantiam.