By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, will today, decide the fate of five sitting Governors of Kogi, Adamawa, Sokoto, Bayelsa and Cross River states, with regards to whether or not they should vacate their respective offices on the 29th of next month.
The appellate court which will today deliver judgment on the appeal that was lodged before it by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, will by extension, determine the legal propriety of the judgment of a Federal High Court in Abuja, which on February 23, barred the electoral body from including the affected states in the scheduled April 26 gubernatorial elections.
INEC had earlier implored the appellate court to expedite hearing in the suit to enable it determine whether to include the states in its electoral plans for this month.
It pleaded the five-man panel of Justices handling the matter to promptly determine the expiration of the current tenures of the five sitting governors.
It would be recalled that a Federal High Court in Abuja on February 23, stopped INEC from including these five states in its electoral plans for this year, saying that vacancy would legally exist in the various states in 2012.
Trial Justice Adamu Bello, who delivered the said judgment, specifically held that their tenure legally commenced in 2008 when they took fresh oath of office and oath of allegiance, following the nullification of their previous elections of April 14, 2007, by various divisions of the appellate court.
The court had consolidated all the five appeals brought by INEC with one appeal lodged by the Attorney General of the federation against the governors of Bayelsa state Chief Timpre Sylva, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris (Kogi), Alhaji Aliyu
Magatakarda Wammako (Sokoto), Admiral Murtala Nyako (Adamawa) and Sen. Liyel Imoke ( Cross River ).
INEC counsel Abubakar Mahmud SAN while adopting his briefs of argument had prayed the court to allow the appeal and set aside the decision of the lower court which he said were in error. He said that the four year tenures of the governors started to run when they first took their oath of offices in May 2007.
Mahmud SAN further submitted that the governors were now caught by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2010 as amended. He said the governors were exercising delegated powers of the electorates which were for a specific period of four years.
Mahmud submissions were vehemently opposed by Chief Ladi Williams, S.IAmeh SAN,J. Akubo SAN, Kanu Agabi SAN , Paul Erukoro SAN and Chief Olusola Oke who represented Governors Sylva, Wammako, Idris Imoke, Imoke and,PDP respectively.
Their contention was that the governors who went through a fresh election after the nullification of their 2007 elections were not caught by the amended constitution which came into effect on July 16 2010 therefore their tenures started to run from the day they took the second oath office. The trial court in the said judgment, had equally set new dates for the termination of the tenures of the governors.
It specifically held that Governor Ibrahim Idris, Kogi, will stay till April 5,2012; Aliyu Wammakko, Sokoto, till May 28,2012; Timipre Sylva, Bayelsa, leaves the next day on May 29, 2012; Liyel Imoke’s tenure in Cross River terminates on August 28, 2012; and Murtala Nyako, Adamawa, to stay in office till April 30th, 2012.