By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday, fixed June 23 to deliver judgment on a suit seeking to remove Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State from office.
The suit is seeking to sack Tambuwal from office over allegation that he was wrongfully nominated by the All Progressives Congress, APC, to contest the April 11, 2015, election.
It was lodged before the court by two chieftains of the APC in the state, Senator Umaru Dahiru and Mr. Abubakar Sanyinna.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole reserved his verdict on the matter after all the parties adopted their final briefs of argument yesterday.
The plaintiffs who were governorship aspirants in the state, alleged that Tambuwal was illegally nominated by the APC to participate in the 2015 general election in gross violation of section 87 of the Electoral Act.
They told the court that the APC had in its bid to ensure that Tambuwal emerged as its gubernatorial flag-bearer, conducted “a fraudulent” primary election in 2014.
Tambuwal who was initially a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, defected to APC few months before the 2015 election took place.
The gubernatorial ticket was handed to him by the party at the expense of the plaintiffs.
Dissatisfied with the development, Dahiru and Sanyinna took the matter to court, describing the December 4, 2014 APC governorship primary election that produced Tambuwal as “a sham and a hallowed ritual”
The plaintiffs alleged that the list of accredited delegates was swapped at the election venue and that votes were arbitrarily, unlawfully and fraudulently allocated to the aspirants after series of manipulation, intimidation and threat from the then state government.
Before the election was held, they sought for a declaration that the primary poll was unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void and inconsistent with the Electoral Act, 2010 and the APC guidelines.
Aside insisting that he was the authentic governorship candidate of the party, Dahiru, applied for an order restraining INEC from acting, publishing or recognising Tambuwal as APC gubernatorial candidate.
Though the high court, in a judgment by Justice Evoh Chukwu, ruled in favour of the first plaintiff, however, the Court of Appeal in Abuja later nullified the verdict, saying the respondents’ case was academic.
Meanwhile, in a twist of events, the Supreme Court, in a judgment on December 9, 2016, held that Dahiru made out a valid case against Tambuwal.
The apex court directed that the case should be heard afresh on its merit by the high court.
Justice Kolawole initially struck out the matter on the premise that the suit number deferred from the one that was returned for hearing by the apex court.
The case was however brought back to Justice Kolawole by Chief Judge of the high court after it was confirmed that the mix-up in the case number was from the registry.
Arguing the originating summons on behalf of the plaintiffs, Chief Roland Otaru, SAN, urged the court to void and set aside the primary election that produced Tambuwal for the 2015 governorship election.
Otaru prayed the court to take judicial notice of the list containing the names of the delegates who participated at the purported primary and the report of the APC, adding that there was no evidence of verification and accreditation of delegates as required by relevant laws.
Nevertheless, counsel to the APC, Jubrin Okutepa, SAN, asked the court to dismiss the case, maintaining that the plaintiffs were inconsistent in their claims.
He drew attention of the court to the affidavit evidence of the plaintiffs prepared in 2015, where he said they admitted that accreditation of delegates was done.
Okutepa noted that the plaintiffs however made a U-turn in a further affidavit they filed in 2017.
He submitted that a litigant must be consistent in his claim.
Besides, the APC lawyer contended that the plaintiffs failed to call some of the delegates to give evidence that they were not accredited, adding that in the face of their failure to do so, the court should presume that there was proper accreditation.
In his own argument, counsel to Tambuwal, Mr. Sunday Ameh, SAN, aligned himself with submissions of the APC, saying it was too late in the day for the plaintiffs who admitted in January 2015 that accreditation was done, to make a U-turn in 2017 that no accreditation was done.
More so, he argued that the period for primary election had expired in line with 1999 constitution, maintaining that the case of the plaintiffs has become an academic exercise.
Counsel to INEC, Mr. Alhassan Umar, told the Court that the electoral body would remain neutral and abide by whatever decision the court arrived at.