Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja division of the Court of Appeal has refused to nullify the election of Senator Adamu Bulkachuwa representing Bauchi North, Alhaji Adamu Bulkachuwa, over allegation that he was not the proper candidate of the All Progressives Congress(APC) for the senatorial seat.
But in a swift reaction, the appellant, Alhaji Usman Tuggar, insisted that he won the APC primary election with over 54, 000 votes as he vowed to take the matter before the Supreme Court.
In a statement by his counsel, Chike Okafor, Tuggar said: “I won the Primary election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Bauchi North Senatorial district election with over 54,000 votes cast at the said Primary election.”
According to the suit challenging his emergence as the party’s candidate, the newly-inaugurated Senator, who is the husband of the Court of Appeal President, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, lost at the party primary held on October 3, 2018.
Specifically, he was allegedly handpicked by the leadership of the party to replace the supposed winner of the primary election that held on October 3, 2018, Alhaji Usman Tuggar.
It was on the basis of this that Tuggar commenced legal action against his emergence after exhausting an amicable resolution of the issue with the party leadership.
In his suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1240/08, Tuggar prayed the Abuja division of the Federal High Court to hold that Bulkachwa was illegally nominated to vie for the Senatorial seat.
In his place, the plaintiff, urged the court to declare that he was the valid winner of the APC primary election and therefore ought to have his name forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
He equally prayed the court to restrain the electoral body from recognising Bulkachuwa as the bona-fide flag bearer of the APC for the Bauchi North senatorial district election that held on February 23.
But in its judgment, the Federal High Court, in a judgement it delivered on April 18, dismissed the suit, saying it was statute barred since the plaintiff failed to institute the action within 14 days after APC forwarded Bulkachuwa’s name to INEC.
Dissatisfied, Tuggar approached the Court of Appeal to set aside the decision of the trial court and to enter judgment in his favour.
But in a unanimous judgement delivered on Tuesday, a three-man panel of the appellate court led by Justice Akomolafe Wilson, upheld the decision of the high court.
Justice Akomolafe who delivered the judgment held that the suit, being a pre-election matter, was filed outside the mandatory 14 days period spelt out in section 285 (9) of the 1999 Constitution (4th Alteration) Act.
In addition, the appellate court noted that the appellant had in a petition he wrote to the APC leadership on October 9, said he was shocked to hear an announcement that Bulkachuwa was the winner of the senatorial ticket.
The appellate court held that the cause of action arose from the day the appellant admitted that he heard and became aware of Bulkachuwa’s nomination.
“Considering when appellant became aware of his exclusion as a validly nominated candidate, the suit had become statute barred.
“Any suit filed outside the time frame is statute barred”, Justice Akomolafe held.
The court stressed that although section 87(4) of the Electoral Act provided that the name of an aspirant with highest number of votes at the primary election should be forwarded to INEC, it held that forwarding of the name was an event that occurred after the primary election the appellant complained of.
“The period will begin to run after the cause of action arose and not after subsequent event.
“The date of occurrence of the event complained of is certainly October 9.”