From: Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Fresh legal moves to unseat Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State commenced, on Monday, before the Abuja division of the Federal High Court.
The fresh legal battle, initiated by Senator Umaru Dahiru, followed the order of the Supreme Court made on December 9, 2016, directing that the matter be heard afresh.
In the fresh suit, the plaintiff predicated his case on the ground that the Dec 4 2014 APC primary was conducted in gross violation of section 87 of the 2010 Electoral Act and the APC 2014 election guideline.
He also sought court declaration that it is unlawful for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to act on a candidate nominated by the APC for the purpose of the general election when such a candidate was elected in violation of the electoral guideline established by the APC itself.
Dahiru also asked the court to declare that in the circumstances of the primary election, it is he and not Tambuwal that is entitled to be returned as the governorship candidate of the APC for the governorship election conducted on April 11, 2015.
When the matter came up on Monday, counsel to the plaintiff, Mr. Ikoro Ikoro, informed justice Gabriel Kolawole that he had filed a motion on January 31, to amend the reliefs being sought in the originating summons.
The counsel said that he wanted to reliefs to be deleted from the originating summons having been overtaken by events.
However, counsel for the APC, Mr. Jibrin Okutepa (SAN) and that of the second defendant, Mr. Sunday Ameh (SAN), claimed that they have filed counter motions and served same on the plaintiff to object to his attempt to amend the originating summons.
Ikoro who confirmed receipt of the counter-affidavit and that he needed a short adjournment to enable him respond to the counter affidavit.
In a unanimous judgment delivered by its five-man panel, last year, the Supreme Court condemned the appeal panel of the Court of Appeal led by Justice Abdul Aboki for granting the appeal by Tambuwal and APC.
In setting aside the judgment of the appeal court and affirming that of the Federal High Court, the Supreme Court nullified the judgment of the Court of Appeal which was to the effect that the governorship election in Sokoto State having been conducted and won by Tambuwal, the plaintiffs’ pre-election suit had become a useless exercise.
Justice Dattijo Muhammad, who prepared the Supreme Court’s judgment, held that the Court of Appeal in arriving at the decision violated existing judicial precedents laid down by the appeal court itself and the Supreme Court.
He recalled that the judgment of the Court of Appeal was in conflict with an earlier decision of an appeal court panel led by Justice Aboki himself, who had held contrary view in the case which its circumstances were similar to that of Tambuwal’s case.
The Justice of the Supreme Court held that the public was entitled to hold the view that the judiciary was “compromised” to come to such conclusion in Tambuwal’s case.
Justice Muhammad held, “In the case at hand, the lower court, contrary to the foregoing decisions of this court in (Odedo v. INEC & ors (2008) 1 SC 25) and indeed its own earlier decisions, proceeded to extinguish the trial court’s jurisdiction in respect of appellants’ pre-election action, which the two courts persistently held to be extant, not withstanding the fact that the election to which the cause of action relates had been conducted.
“Aboki (Justice of the Court of Appeal) wrote the lead judgment in Adeogun V Fashogbon & other (supra) which this court affirmed.
“In the instant matter, it is intriguing, to say the least, to see the same Aboki, JCA, now a presiding judge in the panel, which decision is appealed against, contrary to his earlier decision, as affirmed by this court, to be in a manifest somersault.
“With such a visibly unpardonable refusal to be bound by the decision of this court on similar issue that called for the application of same fact or similar legislation, the negative perception the public has of the judicial process cannot be said to be without basis.
“The public is entitled, in the face of this brazen disobedience to the authority of the apex court, to conclude that the judiciary is compromised.”
The apex also emphasised that there must always be certainty in court’s decisions as against the arbitrary conclusions of the appeal court in the Tambuwal’s case.
It added that allowing the decision of the Justice Aboki-led panel would amount to enthroning “judicial impertinence”.
Justice Muhammad ruled, “Certainty in decisions of courts remains what the laudable doctrine of precedent or stare decisis is all about. Ignoring the application of the doctrine is inimical to the Judiciary’s role as an arbiter.
“To allow the lower court’s perverse decision is to enthrone judicial impertinence Accordingly, I find merit in the appeal and set aside the lower court’s judgment. The matter is hereby remitted to the trial court for same to be heard and determined expeditiously.”
In the suit, the plaintiff is seeking the Federal High court order to nullify the return of Tambuwal as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives (APC) for the 2015 governorship election in Sokoto State.
Dahiru, who was an aggrieved governorship aspirant in the December 4, 2014 APC governorship primary election, also applied to the court for an order of subrogation directing the APC to declare him as the winner of the primary poll as the person entitled to be sworn-in as the governor of Sokoto State.
Subsequently, Justice Kolawole adjourned the matter till February 28 for the determination of the plaintiff’s motion.