Kogi Governorship: Supreme Court Decides On Isah's Appeal Friday
BEVERLY HILLS, February 20, (THEWILL) - The fate of Kogi State governor, Captain Idris Wada, will be determined finally on Friday as the Supreme Court is expected to deliver judgement in an appeal filed by a former Kogi State Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) flag bearer, Alhaji Jibrin Isah, aka Echocho, seeking to void Wada's election as governor of the state.
In an earlier ruling on August 29,2012, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja had thrown out Echocho's suit for want of jurisdiction just as appeal of January 31 at the Court of Appeal was also dismissed on the same grounds.
The Hgh Court and appellate court ruled that the matter in which Echocho sought adjudication was an election matter which should have been taken before an election tribunal by virtue of 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Act 2010.
But Isah's lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun, (SAN), in his appeal to the Supreme Court, faulted the judgments of the two lower courts , arguing that the case was an invitation for the interpretation of some provisions of the constitution.
isah had prayed the court for the following reliefs: * An order setting aside the election by the 1st defendant (INEC) to the office of the Governor of Kogi State on 3rd December, 2011 and which said election purportedly produced the 2nd defendant(Wada) as Governor-elect of Kogi State.
* An order setting aside the swearing in of the 2nd defendant as Governor of Kogi State.
* An order directing that the 1st defendant (the Independent National Electoral Commission) pursuant to the Supreme Court judgment of January 27, 2012 to arrange and conduct a fresh election to the office of the Governor of Kogi State.
* And in the alternative should the court hold that the election of 3rd December, 2011 in Kogi Dtate is regular, a declaration that the candidature of the plaintiff as governorship candidate of the party in Kogi Stae communicated to INEC on January 27, 2011 having not been withdrawn, the plaintiff be declared to have been the candidate returned in the said election.
' Isah contented that as the winner of an earlier governorship primary election conducted by PDP, he sought constitutional interpretation following the Supreme Court judgment voiding the tenure elongation of some governors.
He said the voiding also affected his nomination as PDP flag bearer for the Aprill 2011 Governorship Election which was cancelled as a result of the judgements of the lower courts calculating the tenure of the ousted governors as four years starting from the date they last took oath of office.
Isah said the election conducted by INEC and won by Wada was wrong for several reasons.
He listed the reasons to include the fact that the election was held during the pendency of the suit challenging the judgment of the lower courts extending the tenure of the ousted governors, citing Obi V INEC (2007) 11 NWLR(pt1046) 565 Uba V Etiaba (2010) 10 NWLR (pt1202) 343 .
Isah therefore maintained that his suit was an action for constitutional interpretation that could be commenced by originating summons and not an election petition as held by the courts below.
But Wada's counsel,Chief Chis Uche ( SAN), urged the Supreme Court to sustain the judgement of the lower courts and dismiss the action because it was an election petition no matter the pretensions.
"We submit that the substance, character and content of the reliefs sought by a party determines his claim irrespective of whatever phraseology in which it is couched by the party," he said.
Maintaining that it was trite in law that only an election tribunal could entertain any dispute arising from a concluded election except if the action was commenced before the holding of the election, he said in this case, the appellant went to court two months after the election was concluded and the winner sworn in.
He also maintained that Isah lacked the locus standi to bring any action on the basis of the aborted PDP nomination exercise of January 2011 as he had already waived any claim to that exercise after voluntarily participating in the fresh primary of September 22, 2012.
"Despite all the opportunities he had before the primary election fixed for September 2011, the appellant did not at anytime in any manner whatsoever challenge the abortion and or cancellation of the primary election of January 2011.
"He rather participated in all the processes of the primary election of September 2011, including voluntarily paying for and obtaining and personally filling the Expression of Interest Form and the Nomination Form, attending screening and standing for the primary election," Wada's lawyer said.
Citing the case of PDP Vs Sylva (2013) 13 NWLR (pt1316) 85, he said the Supreme Court had earlier deprecated such conduct when it held that, "Since Sylva had abandoned the result of the primary election which he won in January 2011 by choosing to participate in the one held in November 2012, he should not turn around and seek to validate the January primary election.
" Also relying on the Supreme Court's lead judgement delivered by Rhodes-Vivour JSC in the Sylva's case, he said the Supreme Court had already declared the primaries which Isah was latching to as history.
"In summary, the first respondent was no longer the PDP candidate for the gubernatorial election.
Besides, he contends that the election now being challenged had passed through the election tribunal, the Court of Appeal up to the same Supreme a Court in Election Petition NO.
EPT/KG/GOV/1/2011 Abubakar Audu &2Ors V Capt Idris Wada $4Ors and had been validated all the way with the apex court judgment given on September 10, 2012 in SC/332/2012 and SC/333/2012," he said.
Wada's counsel therefore said that the suit , apart from being incurably incompetent for want of jurisdiction, was also a gross abuse of court process, and must therefore be thrown out.