Court Okays Kogi Supplementary Governorship Poll
• Ruling Vindicates Our Position, Says INEC
• Faleke Vows To Appeal Judgment
• Bayelsa Elects Governor Today
THE Federal High Court, Abuja Division, yesterday dismantled all legal roadblocks mounted against today’s scheduled supplementary governorship polls in Kogi State, as it rejected bids by Governor Idris Wada and the running mate of the late governorship candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), James Faleke, to stop the supplementary election.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole, while delivering judgment on the consolidated four cases, said the Federal High Court had no jurisdiction to entertain all the reliefs sought by the various parties.
He ruled that passing judgment on the reliefs would mean usurping the powers of the governorship election tribunal that would be constituted by the President of the Court of Appeal after the supplementary election to hear matters arising there-from.
Justice Kolawole affirmed that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has the power to conduct the November 21 and today’s supplementary elections.
In a judgment that lasted about two hours, the Judge held that after painstakingly perusing the reliefs sought in the consolidated suits, he found that they were reliefs that the court could not grant.
The court further held that from the processes filed by the plaintiffs, there was no dispute in the fact that the November 21 governorship election was substantially conducted and results being announced when the candidate of APC, Abubakar Audu ‘tragically’ died.
Justice Kolawole held that it was also not in dispute that Audu was leading by over 36, 000 votes when he passed away.
The court further held that there was no dispute in the fact that Wada scored the second largest votes and that Faleke was having a joint ticket with the late Audu and that they were coasting home to victory when the death came.
Consequently, the court dismissed all the five suits, which it had earlier consolidated.
Specifically, Wada had prayed the court to compel INEC to issue him a Certificate of Return as the only surviving candidate with the highest number of votes in the election, while Faleke had prayed the court to order INEC to declare him winner of the election.
Other plaintiffs in the consolidated suits include Emmanuel Idakwo, John Jacob Usman and Emmanuel Igbokwe, who had in their various suits, asked the court to compel the electoral body to conduct fresh election in the state, following Audu’s death.
Making his submission, counsel to INEC, Yahaya Bello and the APC, submitted that the court had no jurisdiction to adjudicate on the issues raised by the plaintiff, saying the appropriate court is the election petition tribunal.
But Faleke’s counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun, Mr. Pius Akubo for PDP and Chief Chris Uche (all SANs) for Wada, disagreed on the ground that since no candidate has been declared winner, the matter cannot be heard by the election petition tribunal.
After hearing submissions of counsel in the protracted suits, Justice Kolawole reserved his decision for today. INEC had scheduled its supplementary election in 91 polling units, having declared the November election inconclusive.
The plaintiffs prayed the court to determine whether, having regards 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- 181of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, INEC can lawfully conduct a second/supplementary election into the office of Governor of Kogi State today or any other day let alone accepting nomination/substitution by APC on the basis of votes computed and credited to late Audu.
Reacting to the ruling yesterday, INEC said it has vindicated its position on the election. The commission’s Deputy Director of Publicity, Mr. Nick Dazang, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that the commission welcomed the court judgment.
“The judgment vindicates the public notice that we issued and our resolve to conduct the election on Saturday. “Our refrain is that nothing can stop us from conducting the election, except a court ruling to the contrary and the court has said that we should go ahead. It is a vindication of our position,” Dazang said.
He assured the burning of INEC office in Dekina Council would not affect the conduct of the election in the 91 polling units.
Meanwhile, Faleke said he would appeal the judgment. He said in a statement in Lokoja yesterday that he would take the matter to the Appeal Court to get the “mandate” rightly given to him by the electorate in the state.
In the statement, Faleke described himself as a marathon runner, saying the judgment fell short of expectation.
He appealed for calm among APC members and his supporters in the state, saying the battle to get justice has just begun. He also condemned the attack on INEC office in Dekina Council by unknown persons, describing it as barbaric and a desperate move to subvert the wishes of the people.
In the same vein, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the state has urged the electorate, political parties and other stakeholders to embrace peace. A statement by the state branch and signed by its Chairman, Archbishop Emmanuel Egbunu, called on the people to abide by the verdict of the appropriate authorities in the overall interest of the state.
The statement appealed to youths to resist being used for narrow intents and shun all forms of violence, and urged Christians to earnestly pray and intercede for a peaceful resolution of the present political uncertainty over the state.
In Bayelsa State, it is a straight battle between Governor Seriake Dickson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former governor of the state, Chief Timipre Sylva of APC.
An aide of Sylva, Doifie Buokoribo, said: “We will win on first ballot. We have no doubt about that. The people of Bayelsa have moved on. They left Dickson a long time ago, just like his master, former President Goodluck Jonathan.”
On his part, the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Esueme Dan-Kikile, said: “Our chances are very bright. We will win at least six out of the eight local government areas. We envisage a run-off.”
Asked if the government, PDP and his principal would accept defeat if the poll goes the other way, he said: “If the election is free, fair and transparent, we are willing to accept any result. We are working seriously to ensure that the election is free, fair and transparent and that there is no further violence before, during and after the election.
“We got reports of some violence in Okpoama, Sylva’s hometown, and Twon Brass, his local government headquarters, where some PDP chieftains and supporters were attacked and chased out of their communities by thugs wielding machetes. Some of them (PDP leaders and supporters) were seriously injured.”
Similarly, a statement from the government said the Special Adviser to the Governor on Inter-Party Matters, Austin Adigio, and three other members of the PDP were alleged macheted and injured in the attack.
Adigio, who served as Personal Assistant to Sylva and recently decamped to join the Dickson’s administration, was said to have been attacked by several armed youths.
Director of Media and Publicity of the PDP campaign organisation, Jonathan Obuebite, condemned the attacks and call on relevant security agencies to investigate the incident and bring the culprit to book.
Obuebite also raised alarm over the invitation of the Speaker of he state Assembly, Kombowei Benson, top government functionaries and party chieftains by the Directorate of State Service (DSS), barely 24 hours to the election.