Home » Latest Politics » Governorship poll in six states: INEC at a crossroads over appeal

Governorship poll in six states: INEC at a crossroads over appeal


Barely five days after a Federal High Court in Abuja postponed the governorship elections in five states, the Independent National Electoral Commission is yet to decide on whether it would appeal the judgement or not.

The commission had, shortly after the judgement, said it was handing it over to its team of lawyers for study before taking a firm decision on the matter.

As at Friday, INEC had not issued any official explanation on the steps it intends to follow in respect of the judgement.

The commission’s headquarters was quiet, as its top officers were said to have travelled to Calabar, Cross Rivers State, for the collation of the voter registers.

The affected states are Kogi, Adamawa, Sokoto, Cross River and Bayelsa, in addition to Delta State, which was not one of the states that went to court, as its rerun was held in January 2011.

The judgement has thrown the electoral body into a dilemma, as the ruling has further complicated the preparations for the forthcoming elections.

INEC said it had assembled a team of lawyers to study the verdict of Justice Adamu Bello, which ruled that the tenure of the governors of Sokoto, Bayelsa, Adamawa, Kogi and Cross River states would end in 2012.

Legal opinions were, however, divided on the next step the electoral body should take barely 40 days to the general elections.

SUNDAY PUNCH gathered that there would be no governorship elections in the five states if INEC did not appeal the court ruling.

Eminent constitutional lawyer, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), said there would be a plethora of appeals from those directly affected by the ruling of the court.

Sagay said INEC had legal right to appeal, but no moral right.

He said, “INEC should take the back seat because it doesn’t have an interest in who becomes a governor or not. It should wash its hands off the matter.

“I will not be looking at INEC on the matter of appeal; rather, I will look at the Alaibes, the Ogborus and anyone thinking of contesting the elections.

“We are going to have a large number of appeals from those candidates who have been affected,” he said.

However, another senior advocate, Chief Mike Ozekhome, said the judgement was in order because the Supreme Court had set a precedent in the Peter Obi case in Anambra State.

The apex court had ruled that in Obi’s case, it would amount to a subversion of the 1999 Constitution to give any judgement that did not promote the spirit of the foremost national legal document.

The court, relying on Section 180(2)(a) of the constitution directed Dr. Andy Uba to vacate the office to enable Obi to fully run his term of office, since it was not vacant as at May 29, 2007 when Uba was sworn in.

Ozekhome also charged INEC to withdraw its facilities from the five affected states and stop preparations for the governorship elections there.

They should concentrate on other elections.

He insisted, “The law deals with legalities and not spiritual matters, which are concerned with moral issues. To the affected individuals, they should pipe low; in one or two years, they should come and contest the elections.”

Also, a lawyer, Mr. Chima Nnaji, said although the ruling was against public morality, it was the interpretation of the law.

“What we have just seen is the law as it is and not as we thought it should be.

“Technicalities can stand in the way of justice and equity. Equity is supposed to numb the sharpness of the law,” Nnaji added.

He, therefore, advised INEC not to join the fray by appealing the judgement, but leave it to the affected parties.

However, another lawyer, Mr. Kayode Ajulo, said the first step for INEC to take was to appeal the judgement of the Federal High Court.

Ajulo, who is the coordinator of the Non Governmental Organisation, Egalitarian Mission Africa, said all that was needed to save the election was to obtain a stay of execution on the judgement.

He said civil society groups were already preparing to file papers to join INEC in the appeal.

“The judgement is immoral, preposterous, ungodly and grossly bereft of truth. It lacks the basic ingredients of a well researched judgement; thus, a precedent unknown to God, man and our jurisprudence has been laid,” he said.

Meanwhile, SUNDAY PUNCH findings show that INEC has again found itself in a dilemma following the new development.

Hitherto, the problem confronting the electoral body had been how to tackle the steady stream of litigation that arose from the party primaries.

The decision of the Federal High Court had run contrary to INEC’s directive on January 8 to political parties in the five states to prepare for elections in 2011.

INEC, through its Secretary, Abdullahi Kaugama, had announced that there would be elections in the five states.

Relying on Section 180 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, and judicial pronouncement on the tenure of the governors, Kaugama said, “Pursuant to the powers conferred on the Independent National Electoral Commission by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the Electoral Act 2011 and all other powers conferred on it in that behalf, the INEC hereby informs all stakeholders and the general public that governorship elections will hold in all the states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in April 2011, except in Rivers, Edo, Ondo and Anambra states where governorship elections will hold as indicated below: Rivers (June 2011); Edo (July 2012); Ondo (November 2012); and Anambra (November 2014).

Also, Chief Press Secretary to INEC chairman, Mr. Kayode Idowu, on Friday, said the commission was closely studying the judgement to take a definite decision, just as the aspirants and politicians affected by the ruling were cautious in their response.

Labour Party candidate in Bayelsa State, Mr. Timi Alaibe, was yet to makes a statement on the court ruling.

The Deputy Director-General of the Timi Alaibe Campaign Organisation, Mr. Talford Orgono, told one of our correspondents that he was trying to get in touch with his principal for an appropriate response.

In a related development, the Delta State Government said it expected INEC to incorporate the state Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, in the number of states that would not have governorship election in 2011.

Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr, Sunny Ogefere, said INEC had informed the state to await the ruling of Justice Bello.

“If not, we will continue our case against them,” he said.

Only the CPC governorship candidate in Adamawa State, Gen. Buba Marwa (retd) has so far confirmed that he would appeal the judgement of the Federal High Court.


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