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Court Bars INEC from Conducting Gubernatorial Elections in Five States

By huhuonline.com
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Huhuonline.com can disclose that a Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday, February 23, 2011, has stopped the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from conducting governorship election in Kogi, Adamawa, Sokoto, Bayelsa, Cross and River states.   Delivering his judgment in the consolidated suits filed by governors Ibrahim Idris (Kogi), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa) and Liyel Imoke (Cross Rivers), Justice Adamu Bello of the Federal High Court, Abuja, held that their tenures would not expire until sometime in 2012.   Justice Adamu Bello ruled that the governors of Adamawa, Sokoto, Rivers, Cross River and Kogi States will witness no governorship elections in their domain.  

The consolidated suit was filed by Adamawa, Kogi and Sokoto states challenging the decision of the Independent National Election Commission, INEC, to conduct gubernatorial elections in their respective states against the backdrop of the fact that there were fresh elections in their states after the ones held on the 14th April, 2007 were nullified.  

The Governors, through their respective counsels,   Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), Samson Ameh (SAN), Kanu Agabi (SAN), Ladi Rotimi Williams (SAN) and Paul Erokoro (SAN) had urged the court to rely on the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Peter Obi against INEC to determine the matter and prayed the court to calculate theirs too from the dates they were sworn in after winning the re-run elections in their states.  

They had also contended that their tenure should not end in 2011 because they took oath of office and oath of allegiance in 2008 after those taken in 2007 had been voided and set aside by different courts.  

The Federal Government which was a defendant in the case had, through its lawyer, Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN), asked the court not to grant the tenure elongation on the ground that the amended constitution was in opposition to the request of the governors as he argued that since the governors won the re-run elections, their tenure started from their 2007 first oath of office in line with the amended constitution while the PDP, a defendant in the suit, through its national Legal Adviser, Chief Olusola Oke, had said that the 2007 elections, which brought the governors to office in the first instance were declared illegal, unlawful, null and void and set aside by law courts.   The party insisted that the tenure of the governors started from the time they took fresh oath of offices based on fresh elections and that their tenure should be unhindered four years.   The development has also raised indications that Delta State Governor Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan may have been granted a tenure elongation, following his victory in the last re-run election in Delta State on January 6, 2011.  

But, INEC, through one of its spokespersons, Mr. Kayode Idowu, Chief Press Secretary to Prof. Attahiru Jega, chairman of INEC, had stated categorically after the January 6, 2011 re-run election in Delta State that Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan's tenure will end in May 2011. 

Asked about the new judgement and if INEC had plans to challenge it, Mr. Kayode Idowu, said that the commission was still studying the judgement,but does not rule out the possibility of a contest .

However,a government House source in Asaba, had reasoned that 'Incidentally, all the governors, including Governor Uduaghan, emerged winners of the fresh elections conducted in their states, but had decided to be on the safe side by equally taking part in the primary elections of their states and had all emerged winners of the fresh primary elections conducted in their states to fly the PDP flag in the April 2011 governorship election.  

'The import of this recent ruling by Justice Adamu of the Federal High Court, Abuja, is that, though Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan had not been part of the original suit filed by the other governors, the judgement becomes an all encompassing ruling on matters involving re-run elections in the country (pending further judicial interpretations in future) of which Governor Uduaghan has become an automatic beneficiary. By further implication, it also means that since Governor Uduaghan was re-sworn-in in January 2011, he may now be governor of Delta State till January 2015.  

Recall that the Delta State Governorship elections of April 2007, which was won by Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, was annulled by the Court of Appeal sitting in Benin and headed by Justice Monica Gbam Menseh, on November 9, 2010 which ordered a re-run election within 90 days of the judgement.       

Reactions:  
Following the granting of the of four governors prayers by a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja   extending their stay in office beyond May 29, 2011, the Delta State chapter of the Democratic   Peoples Party (DPP) has enjoined its supporters not to remain calm.   The state party chairman, Tony Ezeagwu said in Asaba, that the federal High Court decision was to enable the affected governors buy time.   Ezeagwu noted that the party was sure that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will appeal against the judgment which is the desire of the people of the country.  

The DPP chairman added that issues of gross irregularities in the January 6 governorship re-run election was already before the court, saying that the people's mandate would be restored in due course by the judiciary.  

'Let me assure all the people of Delta State as well as all the supporters of our great party, DPP that they should not panic. The Federal High Court decision in Abuja would not in any way affect our chances of occupying the government house in no distant time'.   Speaking on the judgement, delivered by Justice Adamu Bello, Delta state commissioner for information said the judgment was a demonstration of victory of light over darkness.  

'We the people of Delta State applauded the Federal High Court judgment. It is a demonstration of victory of light over darkness as well as that of good over evil. The judgment is to uphold the integrity of the judiciary. We thank the judiciary for standing firm for the course of democracy.  

A   Warri based legal practitioner, Ikimi Oghenejabor, who described the judgment as a welcome development said the judgment was in line with the supreme court judgment between Peter Obi of Anambra state and Andy Uba, a former PDP governor of the state over power elongation.  

'The Supreme Court judgment had foreclosed any contentions on tenure elongation. When Chris Ngige was removed for being wrongfully declared winner of the 2003 governorship election in the state his tenure was never added to that of Peter Obi.  

'The Delta state government has already concluded plans to approach the court to extend the tenure of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan for another four years as a result of the January re-run election. To keep silent on the issue was to encourage intellectual immorality.  

He argued that the court judgment was in line with section 180, sub-section 2 (A) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and that the constitution supersedes the Electoral Act.