Kogi poll: Wada, Faleke, Bello, to know fate today
A Federal High Court in Abuja will today resolve the dispute arising from the November 21 governorship election in Kogi State.
Judgment will be delivered in five suits arising from the disagreement over the poll declared inconclusive by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The court will among others, decide whether or not INEC could proceed with its planned supplementary election scheduled for tomorrow.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole gave the indication yesterday after taking arguments from parties in the five cases which, with the agreement of lawyers in the cases, he consolidated and heard together.
The cases included the one filed by the Deputy Governorship candidate of the All Progressives Party (APC), James Abiodun Faleke, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/977/2015, where he faulted the decision by INEC to declare the election inconclusive; asked the court to among others compel INEC to declare his joint ticket with the late Abubakar Audu, winner of the election and to restrain it (INEC) from proceeding with its planned supplementary election.
The second suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/962/2015, is by Governor Idris Wada and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and his party where they want the court to compel INEC to declare Wada winner of the election, on the grounds that he is the only surviving candidate in the election who scored the second highest votes after the late Audu, the APC candidate.
The third suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/973/2015 was filed by Emanuel Daiko, who claimed to have contested the election as a candidate of the People for Democratic Change (PDC) and wants the court to among others hold the supplementary election is illegal, prevent APC from substituting its deceased candidate and to prevent APC from participating in the election on the grounds that it no longer has a candidate.
The fourth marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/958/2015, filed by Raphael Igbokwe (a PDP member of the House of Representatives from Imo State) and Stephen Wada Omaye wants the court to annul the election and conduct a fresh one. It has INEC and APC as defendants.
The fifth suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/952/2015 was filed by a Johnson Jacob Usman (who claimed to be an indigene of the state, a registered voter and a lawyer). He seeks among others, to compel INEC to suspend all actions in relation to the election pending the determination of the suit and a declaration that the election ought to be cancelled. It has the AGF and INEC as defendants.
Before entertaining arguments from parties, the court joined the APC’s substitution for Audu, Yahaya Bello and the African Democratic Congress (ADC) as defendants in the case.
Arguing yesterday, Faleke’s lawyer, Wole Olanipekun (SAN) stated that the court possessed the jurisdiction to resolve all issues raised in his client’s case. He said the case was not one for electoral tribunal because the plaintiff only requested the court to apply constitutional provisions in determining the various questions.
He argued that it was a provision of the Constitution that where a principal dies in an election contested with a joint ticket, the constitutional vested interest inures to the benefit of the running mate.
Olanipekun contended that INEC’s decision to declare the election inconclusive was not because Audu died, but because it voided elections in some 91 polling units in 18 Local Governments, where it now intends to conduct supplementary election. Relying on newspaper publication, noted that as at Novemeber24, INEC was reported to have denied knowledge of Audu’s death.
He argued that what his client wants the court to do was not to announce a winner, but like an order of mandamus, compel INEC to perform its statutory responsibility by declaring a winner in an election where results have been computed and announced.
Olanipekun argued that INEC lacked the power to issue the directive (as contained in its “public notice” of November 24, 2015) to the APC to substitute its governorship candidate in the election following the death of its earlier candidate, Abubakar Audu and that it would hold a supplementary election on December 5.
He described Yahaya Bello, who APC has now substituted Audu with, as an interloper, who wishes to usurp the interest of his client. He further argued that by Wada’s prayer to be declared winner on the ground that he was the first runner up, was an admission that the election was concluded and that there was the person who came first.
Responding, lawyers to INEC, APC and PDP, who are defendants in the case urged the court to dismiss it because all the prayers sought by Faleke could only be granted by election tribunal.
Adegboyega Awomolo- SAN – (for INEC) argued that “it is trite law that any matter related to, connected with or arising from election process, whether concluded or not could only be referred to the election tribunal.”
Lawyer to Yahaya, A. A. Adeniyi argued that since the issue was about election, the resolution of the dispute should be taken before the election tribunal.
Lawyer the PDP, Pius Akubo (SAN) argued in similar vein, insisting that Faleke could only inherit the outcome of his joint ticket with Audu if they had been duly elected, with the election concluded as prescribed in the Electoral Act.
Lawyer to APC, Bola Aidi, who agreed with the other defendants, equally urged the court to dismiss the suit on the ground that it was only election tribunal that could determine the issues raised.
Arguing Wada’s suit, his lawyer, Chris Uche (SAN) urged the court to grant his client’s prayers.
Awomolo (for INEC), T. A. Gazali (for the Attorney General of the Federation), Aidi (for APC), Adeniyi (for Bello) argued that the proper forum for the determination of the issues raised was the election tribunal.
“Having regard to prayers sought, it is not seeking the interpretation of the Constitution, but the declaration of winner and issuance of certificate of return. The best place to go is the election tribunal created for Kogi State,” Awomolo said.