From Godwin Tsa, Kogi
The Supreme Court yesterday resolved the legal conundrum surrounding the Kogi State Governorship position in favour of Mr. Yahaya Bello who was affirmed as the lawfully elected governor of Kogi State.
In a unanimous judgments in four separate appeals, the apex court agreed that Bello was properly substituted to replace the late Abubakar Audu as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in ye 2015 governorship election in the state.
In the first appeal filed by James Faleke, the court held that the matter was un meritorious and was subsequently dismissed on that ground.
In the judgment delivered by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, the apex court disagreed with submissions canvassed by counsel to Faleke, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), but however fixed Friday, September 30, 2016 to give reasons for its decision.
In the judgment on the second appeal filed by the immediate-past governor of the state, Capt. Idris Wada, Justice Justice Nwali, Sylvester Ngwuta, the court also dismissed the appeal for lacking in merit and substance. The court refused to order for a fresh governorship election in the state as prayed by the appellant.
The Supreme Court said that section 141 of the Electoral Act 2010 relied upon by the former governor to pray for fresh conduct of the election was no longer a law in Nigeria, having been set aside in 2011 by a Federal High Court in a matter between the Labour Party, the Attorney General and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In two other appeals filed by African Democratic Congress (ADC) and Labour Party (LP), the court, similarly, dismissed them for lacking in merit.
Justice John Iyang Okoro who gave judgment in the appeal by ADC held that the appeal was devoid of merit.
In the matter of Labour Party, Justice Musa Dattijo Mohammed upheld the preliminary objection of governor Bello against the appeal and struck out the appeal for being incompetent.
The apex court upheld the concurrent findings of the Court of Appeal delivered on August 4, 2016 and that of the state governorship election tribunal delivered on June 6, 2016.
Reasons for the four judgments will be given on September 30, 2016.
Earlier, Olanipekun who stood for Faleke had urged the court to invoke section 187 of the constitution to declare his client winner if the election on the combined effect of his joint ticket with late Abubakar Audu and that the election had technically concluded at the time Audu died.
Wada in his submission by Chris Uche (SAN) had urged the to invoke section 141 of the Electoral Act against Governor Bello in the ground that he (Bello) did not participate in the stages of the election.
The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja had on August 4, dismissed the appeals filed by Mr James Faleke, Idris Wada and African Democratic Congress, challenging the election of Mr Yahaya Bello as Kogi State Governor, for lacking in merit.
Justice Jummai Sankey in her ruling stated that according to Section 221 of the Nigerian constitution, only a political party could canvass for votes.
The Judge explained that the constitution does not recognise independent candidature, so Faleke could not lay claims to the number of votes polled before the demise of Audu and before the election was concluded. “So it may be said that he is not a candidate,” Sankey said. The judge also held that Faleke was only joined to Audu after the primaries had been concluded, but Bello, whom the APC chose, participated in the primary election that produced Audu as candidate. Sankey also added that the nomination of Bello to replace the late Audu did not contravene the constitution or the electoral act. The appellate court had earlier reserved the judgment after hearing submission from all parties involved in the matter. Counsel for Faleke, Akin Olujimi, had urged the Appeal Court to set aside the decision of the Kogi election tribunal and invalidate the election of Yahaya Bello on the ground that Bello was not properly nominated. He submitted that Bello did not undergo all the electioneering processes as required by law before he emerged as his party’s candidate in the re-run election.
Making his submission, Joseph Daudu, who is counsel for Governor Bello, insisted that the issue of nomination of candidates for election was the sole responsibility of a political party.
He further submitted that Governor Bello, having been nominated by the APC in compliance with the existing law and authority of the party remained the candidate of his party in the election. Counsel for INEC, Ahmed Raji, urged the court to uphold the election of Yahaya Bello on the ground that he was properly nominated by APC as a replacement to Abubakar Audu who passed away during the election.