PDP, lawyers reject ex parte order as women protest
The Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to stop the collation and announcement of the result of the March 9, 2019 governorship election in Bauchi State.Justice Inyang Ekwo issued the order after hearing an ex parte application filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the incumbent governor of the state, Mohammed Abubakar.
The order will last till the determination of the suit brought before the court by the two plaintiffs, challenging the decision of the electoral body to reverse itself and proceed with the collation of results in some disputed areas.In the motion, APC and Abubakar prayed the court for an order of interim injunction restraining INEC from resuming, concluding or announcing the result of Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area of Bauchi State. Ekwo, after listening to the applicants’ lawyer, Ahmed Raji (SAN), ordered INEC to appear before him on Tuesday to show cause why the order sought by the plaintiffs should not be granted.
But instead of complying with the order of the court, INEC represented by Tanimu Inuwa (SAN), yesterday approached the court with a motion challenging its jurisdiction. Raji however objected to INEC’s application. He informed the court that the order issued on Monday asking the electoral body to show cause why the requests of the plaintiffs should not be granted had not been obeyed.He told the court that the business before the court was to determine whether the earlier order had been complied with. He also drew the attention of the court to a statement issued by Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, dated March 15, announcing that the electoral body would resume collation of the Bauchi governorship election.
He noted that except the court grants the interim order, the subject matter of the substantive suit would be destroyed.Responding, Inuwa admitted that the order had not been complied with and requested to address the court orally on the issue. His request was however refused by the judge.
Justice Ekwo held that since the ex parte application was in writing and duly served on INEC, it behoves the defendant to appear before the court with a written or formal response.In his ruling, the judge granted the interim injunction restraining INEC from resuming, concluding and announcing the governorship election result in Bauchi State, pending the determination of all issues raised by the plaintiffs in their originating summons. Ekwo also granted accelerated hearing in the matter and ordered the parties to appear before him today to present their positions in the substantive matter.
The plaintiffs in their originating summons are challenging the decision of INEC to resume collation of results of the election earlier declared inconclusive.They prayed the court to compel the electoral body to go ahead with a rescheduled poll slated for Saturday, March 23, rather than reversing itself on the earlier announcement.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) meanwhile has rejected what it called “the arm-twisting of the judiciary and the court by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to unconstitutionally halt the conclusion of collation of already declared results in the Bauchi State governorship election.”
The party, in a statement by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, yesterday said: “Such development, which is akin to the infamous order that derailed the 1993 democratic process, is part of the plot by the APC and certain compromised elements in the Independent National Electoral Commission to escalate crisis and derail our electoral process.”
According to the party, “The power to collate, suspend collation and or to reverse such decision based on obvious circumstances as the case in Bauchi is clearly within the domain of INEC. Until Collation is completed and results declared, no one can question the constitutional powers of the electoral body: INEC, in that regard.”
Some senior lawyers also criticised the order. Former attorney general and commissioner for justice in Abia State, Chief Awa Kalu (SAN), said the court is not supposed to stop INEC from collating results.“Such an action is not known to law because a post-election process can only be handled by an election tribunal. The election has already been conducted and only the collation is remaining. So, a court is not supposed to stop that process,” he said, adding that any aggrieved person should wait patiently and approach the tribunal when the final result is announced.
The immediate past governorship aspirant in Osun State, Dr. Abiodun Layonu (SAN), also said that when an election is completed and collation has started, no court has the power to stop the process.On his part, Lagos-based advocate Adekunle Oyesanya (SAN) said: “The decision is perverse. It is only the election petition tribunal at this stage that has jurisdiction to hear such matters. Once an election has been done and collation commenced, a court cannot stop it. It is now a tribunal matter. That may be a precedent that may open up a floodgate of injunctions for those who are foreseeing defeat in an election. So, we need to be very careful about these issues.”
Toeing the same line of argument, Lagos lawyer, Kunle Adegoke, described the order as strange. Similarly, some women staged a peaceful demonstration at INEC’s Bauchi headquarters. “We want INEC to declare the PDP candidate, Kaura (Bala Muhammed), as winner. But some selfish people want to steal our mandate,” said one of the protesters, Mrs. Khadija Hassan.