By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Supreme Court, Friday, justified why it upheld the election of Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, stressing that section 141 of the Electoral Act, 2010, which forbade courts from decalaring as winner, any person that did not participate in all stages of an election, is no longer extant.
The apex court noted that the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court had in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/399/2011, struck out the section in a judgment it delivered on July 20, 2011, in a case the Labour Party filed against the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
A seven-man panel of Justices of the court, in a lead verdict that was prepared by Justice Nwali Sylvester Ngwuta in an appeal filed by the Peoples Democrtaic Party, PDP, and its governorship candidate in the state, Capt. Idris Wada, retd, maintained that as long as the judgment has not been set aside by a court of competent jurisdiction, “that order binds all courts, whether below or above the court that made the order”.
However, Ngwuta quickly added that this reason was not “a derogation from the fact that judgments of courts below the Supreme Court as well as judgments of courts in foreign jurisdictions have only persuasive value before the Supreme Court of Nigeria”.
He said: “It means that section 141 of the Electoral Act has ceased from the date of the judgment of the Federal High Court, to be part of our law”.
The apex court held that the appellants contention that it was wrong for INEC to combine votes cast for a dead candidate with those of a living candidate, was “borne out of misunderstanding of the judgment in Amaechi v. INEC”.
It held that a candidate contests election for the party that nominated him. “He scores votes for that party, there being no independent candidate as of now”, saying relationship between a party and its candidate could be likened to that between an agent and his disclosed principal.
“On this basis, the votes scored by the candidate belongs to the party that sponspored him at the electionand therefore Prince Abubakar Audu, who was the candidate of the 2nd Respondent and scored votes at the election could not have died with those votes since they belong to the 2nd Respondent of whom he contested the election.
The votes were rightly added to the votes the 1st Respondent scored in the supplementary election”.
The apex court said it resolved six issues PDP and its candidate raised against governor Bello since they failed to prove a ground for it to interfer with the concurrent findings of both the Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
Similarly, the court, also explained why it refused to hand the election victory to erstwhile running mate to late Prince Audu, Hon. James Faleke, saying such declaration would not have the backing of the law.
The Apex court, among other things, noted that falake whose joint ticket with Audu had garnered 240,873 votes before Audu died, could not benefit the vote or take the place of Audu, because he did not meet the condition precedent.
Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun who delivered the lead verdict, said that before the sudden death of Audu, INEC had already declared the election inconclusive and that since the election had not been completed and the final result issued by the electoral body, Faleke, as a running mate,Could not claim victory in the election.
It held that by virtue of section 221 of the 1991 constitution, Bello, having become candidate of APC and legally sponsored by the same party, in the face of the law, could lay claim to the 240,867 votes cast for the party in the November 21, 2015 election.
It will be recalled that though the apex court affirmed Bello’s election on September 20, it reserved reason for the verdict till yesterday.