As APC, INEC query jurisdiction of court to stop rerun
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, will, today, determine whether in view of section 181 of the 1999 constitution, as amended, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, should go ahead with its plan to conduct supplementary governorship election in Kogi State tomorrow.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole adjourned for judgement after all the parties, yesterday, adopted their final written addresses on contentious legal issues that arose from the sudden death of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Prince Abubakar Audu, before the election was concluded.
INEC had declared the governorship election held November 21, inconclusive, even as it fixed Saturday to conduct a run-off poll.
Meanwhile, the court had, Tuesday, consolidated four separate suits challenging the legality of the scheduled supplementary election.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole, who merged the four suits, said there was need for the court to expeditiously determine the issues “so that INEC will not conduct the election under a grave shadow of doubt as to the legal or constitutional validity.”
Whereas one of the suits was lodged before the court by Kogi State governor, C aptain Idris Wada (retd), the second suit was filed by the governorship candidate of the People for Democratic Change, PDC, in the state, Emmanuel Daikwo.
Likewise, a legal practitioner, Mr. Johnson Usman, a House of Representatives member for Ahiazu Ezinaehitte Mbaise Federal Constituency of Imo State, Rafael Igbokwe and an electorate from Omala Local Government Area in Abelijukolo Ife of Eche ward in Kogi State, Mr. Stephen Wada Omaye, filed the two remaining suits.
They want the court to go ahead and determine: “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.”
Wada specifically prayed the court to determine, “whether in view of the provisions of section 179 (2) (3)(4)(5) of the constitution, and other enabling provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, and having regard to the doctrine of necessity, the plaintiff being the only surviving candidate with the major lawful votes cast at the Kogi State governorship election held on November 21, 2015, ought not to be declared and returned by the INEC as the winner of the election having secured not less than one-quarter of the votes case in two-thirds of all the Local Government Areas in Kogi State.”
Justice Kolawole had given all the parties 48 hours to file and exchange their briefs of argument and return to the court yesterday for adoption.
Jurisdiction of the high court
Meantime, at the resumed sitting, yesterday, the APC, challenged the jurisdiction of the high court to entertain the suits.
APC’s position was also adopted by both INEC and its replacement for Audu, Mr. Yahaya Bello, who both contended that the court has no jurisdiction to adjudicate on issues that were raised by the plaintiffs, issues they said could be best handled by an election petition tribunal.
APC was not represented in court the day the four suits were consolidated.
The plaintiffs had informed the court that they could not effect service on the party owing to a free-for-all they said took place at the APC national secretariat in Abuja by three different factions of the party in Kogi State, the day they went there with the court processes.
In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/977/2015, Faleke insisted that contrary to claim by INEC, the Kogi State governorship election was conclusive.
He is seeking 16 principal reliefs from the court, among which include: “A declaration that by the express provisions of sections 179 (2) (a) and (b) and 187(1) of the constitution, a person who is nominated as an associate of a candidate for the office of governor of a state is duly elected deputy governor of a state when the candidate for the office of the governor scores the highest number of votes at the election and also scored not less than one quarter of all the votes cast in each of at least two-third of all the local government areas in the state.”