The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has petitioned the National Judicial Council (NJC) following the order issued by Justice Ekwo Inyang of the Federal High Court Abuja stopping the collation and announcement of the result of the March 9, 2019 Bauchi State governorship election.
Governor Mohammed Abubakar of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had approached the court after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) rescinded its decision to hold a rerun on the inconclusive poll and opted to proceed with counting and result declaration.
The PDP accused Inyang of violating the constitution and Electoral Act by sitting on a matter it claimed should have been handled by an election petition tribunal.
It urged the NJC to save Nigeria’s democracy by taking an urgent step against the alleged violations by Inyang. It further noted that the people of the state have already chosen their next governor by voting for the PDP’s candidate, Bala Mohammed.
By granting an ex parte order stopping INEC from concluding the governorship election in the state, Inyang violated Section 87(11) of the Electoral Act, which states that no court has the power or jurisdiction to stop any election pending the determination of a suit, the PDP said in a statement yesterday by National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbondiyan.
An affidavit sworn to by its National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, in Abuja, reads: “Despite this clear provision of the law, Justice Ekwo decided to hear the application of Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar and his political party, the APC, within 24 hours on March 19, 2019 and issued an order on INEC not to continue with the election until the case before him is finally decided.
“That the collation of results is a post-election event and under Section 87(11) of the Electoral Act, no court has the power or jurisdiction to stop any election pending the determination of a suit.
“That an election includes voting, collation of results and the declaration of results. That as a result of the order on INEC, the conclusion of the Bauchi State governorship election, which was to take place on March 19, 2019 was stalled.
“That the order of Justice Ekwo was made contrary to the provisions of the Constitution of Nigeria, 1999 as amended dealing without fair hearing and also section 87(11) of the Electoral Act.
“That the Chief Justice of Nigeria has constituted various Election Petition Tribunals in Nigeria to handle such cases and the assumption of jurisdiction by Justice Inyang Ekwo is an affront to the constitution and electoral wishes of the people of Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area and Bauchi State.”
But while the governorship seat seethes in legal waters, the PDP yesterday defeated the APC in the Tafawa Balewa House of Assembly poll.
The controversial result was cancelled on March 10, 2019 following the disruption of collation. The party clinched 29,933 votes while the APC had 25,210 as INEC resumed collation yesterday.
Some lawyers said the PDP’s petition is in order.
They held that when a judge who does not have jurisdiction over such a sensitive matter assumes authority and makes a consequential order on what should be a post-election case, a petition is desirable.
A senior lawyer and immediate past presidential candidate of the All Grassroots Alliance (AGA), Chuks Nwachuku, said: “Anybody can petition the NJC in respect of the order of a judgment they believe was given maliciously. There are many precedents. It is the usual occurrence. Such petitions have led to disciplinary action being taken against many judges. Former Justice Gbajabiamila was retired (I believe unjustifiably) over such a petition that was written by Candide-Johnson (SAN) over orders that the learned judge made.”
Another lawyer who did not want his name mentioned said the order made by Inyang was a blatant abuse of the Electoral Act, especially Section 87 (11) as amended. The section states: “Nothing in this section shall empower the courts to stop the holding of primaries or general election under this Act pending the determination of the suit.”
The lawyer said the collation of results is a post-election event and no court has the power or jurisdiction to stop any election pending the determination of a suit. He also noted that the petition against the judge is in order.
Similarly, a Lagos-based lawyer, Smart Martins Olatunji, affirmed that the PDP could petition the NJC over an order made by a judge if such an order was contradictory. “It will be unethical for any judge to make such a contradictory order. Such an act will amount to an attempt to bring the wheel of justice to disrepute,” he stated.
This came as the APC alleged a plot by the PDP and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, to tamper with INEC’s database.
“We note Atiku’s consistent reference to the ‘INEC server’ as if he is the custodian of that platform. Indeed, Atiku’s constant reference should raise concerns as it is becoming apparent that he and the PDP are up for some dastardly activities that are targeted at jeopardising the database and internal storage system,” said a statement by APC National Publicity Secretary Lanre Issa Onilu.
The statement added: “Judging by Atiku and PDP’s recent utterances and actions, it is now clear that they have slipped into severe depression and post-defeat hallucination that have left many Nigerians questioning their current state of mind.”
The Senate meanwhile has condemned “the massive use of military forces” in the general elections. It also expressed concern over what it called “inconsistent application of electoral laws by INEC in matters of national elections.”
According to the Senate, “the nation is on the edge of a precipice, and our democracy can be saved for future posterity, if only we build strong institutions that can operate within established laws, with our military forces restricted to their traditional roles of defending the nation.”
Adopting a motion sponsored by Senator Dino Melaye (PDP, Kogi West) and seconded by Senate Majority Leader Ahmed Lawan, the upper legislative chamber also directed its committee on electoral matters to conduct a comprehensive investigation into all perceived inconsistent application of electoral laws by INEC during the elections.
It asked President Muhammadu Buhari to “assent to the recent amendment to the Electoral Act, to ensure a level playing field and the adoption of equal standards in national elections for a strong and peaceful democracy.”
While adopting the motion, which attracted a brief uproar from some members of the APC, especially during contributions by some senators, the chamber noted that there is an urgent need to institutionalise procedures and application of laws.
Captioned, “Militarisation of the Nigerian Electoral Process and the Inconsistent Application of Electoral Laws by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)”, the motion was co-sponsored by Senators Mao Ohuabunwa (Abia North), Matthew Urhoghide (Edo South), Samuel Anyanwu (Imo East), Clifford Ordia (Edo Central), Ahmed Ogembe (Kogi Central), Biodum Olujimi (Ekiti South) and Obinna Ogba (Ebonyi Central).
Presenting his motion, earlier, Melaye said: “It is more worrisome that the number of lives lost is unprecedented. In 1993, when the June 12 election was annulled, we did not lose such a number of people. It is not about PDP or APC but about Nigeria. It is pathetic that there is no presidential broadcast by Buhari. Nigeria is not a banana republic. If we are scared to talk for fear of our election being declared inconclusive, our children are watching.”
Also, former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC Timi Frank petitioned the United States of America, United Kingdom and the European Union (EU), asking them to place a visa ban on the Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Tukur Buratai and others over the alleged involvement of the military in the elections.
This was contained in a petition dated March 19, 2019 but made available to reporters in Abuja yesterday.