Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Supreme Court has declared Alhaji Mohammed Sani Musa winner of the Niger-East Senatorial District of Niger State. He takes the place of Senator David Umaru who was earlier declared the winner of the election. Both men are of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
The apex court reached its decision after setting aside the April 8, 2019 judgment of the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal, which earlier declared Senator Umaru, ex-chairman, Senate Committee on Justice, Human Rights and Legal Matters, the valid candidate of the APC, who earlier won the election.
The court in a unanimous judgment delivered on Friday upheld arguments by Musa’s legal team, led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), to the effect that Musa won the primary of the APC for the election and was the actual candidate for the election.
A five-man panel of the Supreme Court, led by Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, faulted the Court of Appeal’s finding that the case was statute barred.
The apex court allowed the appeal filed by Musa, marked: SC/405/2019 and affirmed the February 7, 2019, judgment by Justice Folashade Giwa-Ogunbanjo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which declared Musa the validly-nominated candidate of the APC for the election
Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, in the lead judgment, upheld the argument by Olanipekun that the suit was filed, at the trial court, within time, and that the Court of Appeal was in error to have held that the cause of action was the outcome of the primary election.
He held that the course of action, as argued by the appellant, was the submission of Umaru’s name to INEC instead of Musa, who won the primary.
Olanipekun, who led Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) and Ahmed Raji (SAN) for the appellant, had, while arguing the appeal on May 17, 2019, prayed the court to uphold the appeal and restore the judgment of the Federal High Court earlier given in favour of the appellant.
He argued that the Court of Appeal was in error when it held that the appellant was out of time and that the cause of action arose from the day the primary was held.
Olanipekun said: “The appellant could not have complained about the primary election that he won. The cause of action accrued when the 1st respondent’s name (Umaru) was sent to INEC as the candidate of the APC.
“The cause of action arose when the APC sent the name of the 1st respondent (Umaru) to INEC as its candidate, instead of the appellant, who won the primary.
“The primary election was conducted on October 2, 2018; the 14 days could not have started counting, because the name of the 1st respondent had not been sent to INEC.
“If the 14 days is calculated from their position that the cause of action arose from October 2, 2018, when the primary was held, the cause of action would not have arisen as of October 16, 2018.
“It (the cause of action) only arose on October 18, when the1st respondent’s name was sent to INEC. And we are within the time when we filed our suit at the trial court on October 26, 2018.”
Olanipekun noted that the Court of Appeal only set aside the judgment, but failed to upturn any of the findings of the trial court in the judgment of February 7, 2019.
Both Babatunde Ogala, who represented the APC and Taminu Inuwa (SAN), who represented INEC, urged the court to allow the appeal.
After the February 7, 2019, of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Umaru appealed to the Court of Appeal, Abuja, which revered the trial court judgment and declared Umaru winner.
Aggrieved by the decision, Musa appealed to the Supreme Court, and his appeal was upheld on Friday.