Supreme Court upholds Fayose’s re-election
APC had lodged the appeal at the apex court against the judgment of the Court of Appeal which had earlier dismissed the party’s appeal against the judgment of the Ekiti Governorship Election Tribunal which upheld the victory of Fayose at the governorship polls.
In a unanimous decision of the seven-man panel, the Supreme Court held that the Constitution of Nigeria 1999, as amended, pursuant to Section 182(1)(e), lists the grounds for disqualification, declaring that impeachment is not among the grounds.
Delivering the lead judgment, Justice Sylvester Nwali Ngwuta held: “Only a court of law or the Code of Conduct Tribunal has statutory powers to find a person guilty before such a person would be disqualified from standing election for ten years.”
He ruled that the failure to charge Fayose before the Code of Conduct Tribunal after he had been impeached had made it impossible to bar him from re-seeking election as governor of Ekiti State. Justice Ngwuta also held that since the first panel constituted by the then chief judge of the state cleared Fayose of any wrong doing, the matter ought to have ended there in accordance with the Section 188 (8) of the constitution. “The constitution of another impeachment panel by the Acting Chief Judge of the State, Justice Jide Aladejana (who was later dismissed by the National Judicial Council) was an illegality”, the apex court held.
It also threw out the allegation that the Higher National Diploma (HND) certificate submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by Fayose was forged. First, the court held that the allegation, being criminal in nature, must be proved beyond reasonable ground and that the appellant failed to so prove. Secondly, the allegation was dismissed on the ground that the Court of Appeal had held with finality that the certificate was not forged. That was in the case filed by the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD) when the party challenged Fayose when he was first elected governor of Ekiti State.
Other panelists took turns to read their concurrent decisions. In his judgment, Justice John Afolabi Fabiyi held that the acting chief judge was illegally appointed and that the second panel constituted by him was also an illegality.
He said: “It will be recalled that the then CJN and Chairman NJC wrote to the acting CJ to inform him that he was illegally appointed. In the letter, the CJN wrote: ‘Any action by you will be unconstitutional.’
Notwithstanding the advice of the CJN, the acting Ekiti CJ constituted an illegal panel. An arrant illegality. The impeachment was illegal. Jide Aladejana was dismissed for accepting the illegal appointment as acting CJ.”
Delivering his own verdict, Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour held that Section 188(8) of the 1999 Constitution is very clear: “Where allegations against the governor were not proved, the matter ended there and no further steps should be taken. To set up a second impeachment panel amounted to an illegality.
“Assuming the second panel was legally constituted and Fayose was convicted of stealing and impeached, the proper thing to do was for the authority to arraign him before the Code of Conduct Tribunal. A governor impeached of stealing should have been tried and convicted at the code of conduct tribunal. It is after then can he be disqualified from seeking re-election until after ten years.
“Impeachment is not a ground for disqualification. Fayose was impeached and was allowed to go home. He should have been charged, tried and convicted. This is laxity on the part of our institutions.”
Justice Bata Ogunbiyi held that it was superfluous to use impeachment as a ground for disqualifying Fayose from seeking re-election, declaring that to do so would be tantamount to a breach of his fundamental right to fair hearing.
There was wild jubilation in Ekiti State yesterday as news filtered in that the apex court affirmed the re-election of Fayose. The judgement elicited spontaneous reactions from traders, commercial motorcyclists, students, commercial drivers and party men and women of various political affiliations who abandoned their activities to join Fayose in a victory rally. Armed security men keeping surveillance on the streets of Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, had hectic time controlling the crowd.
Fayose, who later emerged from the Government House at about 12 noon to personally lead the procession, was confronted with a huge crowd of people who were already waiting for him under the scorching sun, singing his praises. The governor, who carried a placard bearing the inscription, “God, I thank you, Ekiti people, I thank you for your steadfastness”, led the carnival-like procession through major streets in Ado Ekiti.
While addressing the crowd, the governor urged those still nursing the ambition to get him out of office to have a re-think, saying unfolding events have proven that it was God that put him in position of leadership.
Fayose said: “Having voted for me ten months ago, and confirmed the victory by the subsequent elections in the last few weeks, you have shown that you are unequivocal about your choice and your determination to protect and defend that mandate.
“I cannot but appreciate the apex court for protecting democracy and also for living to the expectation of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, who had assured that under his leadership, the judiciary would not subscribe to any plot to change the outcome of elections through the instrumentality of the court. ” To my opponents, I plead with you to sheath your sword and join me in developing Ekiti State.”
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) described the judgment as a triumph of democracy and the rule of law. The party congratulated Fayose and the people of Ekiti State for their doggedness in the face of daunting challenges from anti-democratic forces and urged the governor to be magnanimous in victory while using his mandate to deliver good governance in line with the PDP manifesto and vision of the founding fathers.
The factional Speaker of Ekiti State House of Assembly, Dr. Adewale Omirin, appealed to the members of the APC and Ekiti people in general to accept the judgment of the Supreme Court.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Wole Olujobi, the factional Speaker said the Supreme Court as the last authority on the matter has spoken and he urged the people to respect the verdict.