By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has fixed Friday to determine whether or not the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, should go ahead with the planned supplementary governorship election in Kogi State.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole who heard four separate suits challenging the legality of the scheduled run-off poll, said there was need for the court to take a position on the matter “so that INEC will not conduct the election under a grave shadow of doubt as to the legal or constitutional validity”.
Meanwhile, Justice Kolawole consolidated the four suits, even as he persuaded lawyers to the various plaintiffs to distill out three central issues for the court to determine.
Whereas the first suit was lodged before the court by the Kogi state governor, Captain Idris Wada, retd, the second suit was filed by the governorship candidate of the People for Democratic Change, in the state, Hon. Emmanuel Daikwo.
Similarly, while the third suit was filed by a legal practitioner, Mr. Johnson Usman, the fourth suit was filed by two plaintiffs, a member representing Ahiazu Ezinaehitte Mbaise Federal Constituency of Imo state at the National Assembly, Hon. Rafael Igbokwe, and an electorate from Omala LGA in Abelijukolo Ife of Eche ward in Kogi state, Mr. Stephen Wada Omaye.
Even though Wada had in his originating summons, prayed the court to declare him winner of the November 21 governorship election, the other plaintiffs however sought for the nullification of the election, as well as an order compelling INEC to conduct a fresh poll.
Nevertheless, sequel to the directive of the court, all the plaintiffs, led by Mr. Goddy Uche, SAN, narrowed the three issues for determination to include: “Whether having regard to the provisions of sections 31(1)(2)(4)(5)(6)(7) and (8), 33, 34, 36, 85 and 87 of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, as well as sections 178-181 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, INEC, can lawfully conduct a second/supplementary election into the office of Governor of Kogi state on December 5, 2015, or any other date at all let alone accepting the nomination/substitution by the APC of any candidate on the basis of votes computed and credited to the deceased candidate of the APC when the new or substitute candidate was not part of the original election”.
Meantime, before he adjourned the case till Thursday for all the parties to adopt their final addresses, Justice Kolawole warned the lawyers to limit themselves to issues of law.
He stressed that since the substantive fact of the matter with regard to death of the APC governorship candidate, Abubakar Audu is not in dispute, “counsels should therefore be moderate, brief and concise in their addresses by limiting argument to the three issues distilled from the four Originating Summons listed on the cause list.
“This is because time is of the essence, as the court has to consider all the issues and deliver its judgment on Friday. The addresses should not be more than 10 pages and maximum of 15 pages. This case is hereby adjourned to December 3 for adoption of addresses.
“Counsel are to file and exchange their addresses within 48 hours”, Justice Kolawole ruled.
While INEC and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, were represented in court, there was no legal representation for the APC.
Earlier, Wada’s lawyer, Mr. Uche, SAN, told the court that spirited effort to serve the APC with the originating processes on Monday proved abortive owing to bloody fight he said was going on between three different factions in the party.
Meanwhile, Audu’s running mate, Mr. James Abiodun Faleke has approached the high court, seeking a declaration that election to the office of Governor of a state can only be conducted in the manner expressly stipulated in section 179 (2), (a)(b), (3)(a)(b), 4(a)(b) and (5) of the constitution.
Among other reliefs, he also wants “A declaration that by the combined reading of section 179 (2)(a) and (b) and 181(1) of the constitution, upon the death of a person duly elected as the governor of a state, the person elected with him as Deputy-Governor is to be sworn in as the Governor of the state”.