By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
THE Supreme Court, yesterday, dismissed a suit that sought to remove Governor Suswam of Benue State from office over an allegation that he tendered a forged West African Examination Council, WAEC, certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
It was a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Mr. Terver Kakih, that lodged the appeal before the apex court.
Kakih, in his appeal, insisted that the governor, used the said bogus certificate and obtained form CF001 from INEC in order to participate in the 2011 general election.
Besides, he challenged the legitimacy of the PDP primary election that produced Suswam, contending that it was not conducted in line with either the Electoral Act, the party’s constitution or guidelines.
It was his argument that Suswam was not constitutionally qualified to contest the governorship election in the state.
Though the appellant initially lost the case at both the high and appellate courts, he took the matter before the appellate court where he also failed yesterday.
In their unanimous decision yesterday, a 5-man panel of justices of the apex court, dismissed the case as grossly lacking in merit, even as they upheld the verdicts of the two lower courts.
In the lead judgment which was delivered by Justice Suleiman Galadima, the apex court panel, held that there was “no iota of credible evidence to support the allegation of certificate forgery.”
“The allegation of falsification of academic qualification is criminal in nature and requires proof beyond every reasonable doubt. The appellant has failed to effectively discharge that burden.
“The appeal lacks merit and is hereby accordingly dismissed. There will be no award of cost against the respondents”, the apex court held.
In another development, the Supreme Court, yesterday, declared as illegal, the arbitrary sack of over 148 local government area Councillors in Abia state by former governor Orji Uzor Kalu in 2006.
The apex court in its judgment yesterday, described the action of the governor as “executive rascality”, even as it directed the Abia state government to forthwith pay the appellants all the salaries, allowances and other entitlements that ought to have accrued to them
for 23 months.
Ex-governor Kalu had on June 16, 2006, sacked all the Chairmen and Councillors in all the 17 LGA’s in the state and appointed caretaker committees that took over the affairs of the LGA’s.
Dissatisfied with the action, 148 Councillors led by Mr. Chigozie Eze, took the matter to court where they won at both the high and appellate courts.
However, owing to the refusal of the lower courts to reinstate them on the ground that their tenure had elapsed, they proceeded to the apex court.
Invoking section 22 of the Supreme Court Act yesterday, the apex court panel, noted that though their tenure had expired, it held that the litigants were entitled to a remedy.
The apex court stressed that any elected person could only be removed from office if such person was found to have breached the law governing the office, “the court of law will not allow the executive to go away with official recklessness. It must always stand up to call the executive to order.
“At times, Judges are advised to lean towards equity instead of strict law. The Supreme Court has unlimited powers available to it to do substantial justice. It has powers to make consequential orders even when it is not claimed.
“The action of the governor in removing constitutionally elected persons from office is strange and unknown to our law. It is a dictatorial exercise of executive powers”, the court held.
Aside directing that the appellants should be paid, the apex court, further awarded a cost of N250, 000 in favour of the appellants.