Gov.Uduaghan`s Tenure Elongation Bid Quashed
Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan's ongoing campaign rally in Delta state may have suffered a set-back as the Federal High Court sitting in Asaba, Delta state has refused to grant his request for tenure extension by stopping the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from conducting the forthcoming April governorship election in the state. Justice Ibrahim Buba in his two-hour ruling said the tenure extension does not apply to Delta state governor since he took oath of office the same day the amended constitution was assented to by President Goodluck Jonathan.
He said the prospective application of Section 180 (2A) makes it different from that of other five governors and directed Governor Uduaghan to contest the April polls.
The suit filed by Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, through the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Victor Otemiewo, is praying the Court to stop INEC from conducting the forthcoming April governorship election in the state.
Justice Ibrahim Buba of Federal High Court, Asaba, said the 'The election did not come after the commencement of the Act, in any case, the oath of office which is the crux of the matter on January 10, 2011. Therefore, the court in interpreting the Section 180 (2A) must be guided by the law.
Justice Buba, in his lead Judgment that lasted two hours in a crowded court room ruled that Uduaghan can not stay in office as Governor of Delta State beyond May 29th 2011 as the National Independent Electoral Commission is duty bound to conduct a fresh gubernatorial election in the state.
But Justice Buba in his judgment said, 'I hold that the plaintiff (Uduaghan) is not entitled to four years term having regards to the amendment of section 180(2A) , in the final analysis , he is not entitled to the relives sought , and subsequently the declarative relief sought and the injunction sought can not be granted , the case of the plaintiff ( Uduaghan) fails and the case is hereby dismissed'.
Buba further stated that the election of 6th January 2011 and the oath of 10th January 2011 is to be determined by section 180(2A) , adding that ' therefore I am more inclined to agree with the submission of the defendants (INEC) that the constitution did not contemplate a situation were the governor will serve for seven years in office in the place of four years'
He declared: 'so am of the considered opinion that the mandate of a governor is with the electorates and does not lay in the court under a tin disguise of judicial interpretation on cases that are not inconsonance with this case. In the final analysis, I hold that section 180(2a), of constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria can not be read in isolation which the plaintiff avoided in his submission for determination'.
'In the present case, if this court is to give effect to the constitution and generations yet unborn, it must interpret Section 180 (2A) in its similarity, regularity meaningfully with a view to achieving mischief which it is intended to cure. What then is the mischief? To have a de-jury government or de-facto government.
'This equally follows that elections shall hold at election fields and not in courts. Courts shall decide election disputes. It is the duty of the courts to interpret the law meaningfully. The constitution interprets the type of four years. No more, no less.
'The plaintiff argues that it should be taken prospectively. That is true if the oath of office was taken before the law was passed and assented to as in the case of Adamawa, Kogi, Cross River, Bayelsa and Sokoto where the law will not operate prospectively. In this case both acts took place in the morning of January 10, 2011 and from the facts of the case, I am more than satisfied that the case is different that of Timipre Sylva and other four governors.
After the court ruling which started at about 09:00 am till 11:00 am, supporters of the governor who milled around the Federal High Court premises in Asaba, quietly left without uttering a word, an indication that they have lost the bid to remain in office without going through electoral processes.
Mr. Turner Ogboru, younger brother to Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru, Delta state governorship candidate of the Democratic Peopls Party (DPP) said the ruling was a triumph for the judiciary adding that the 'we must continue with the election petition challenging the conduct of the last January 6, 2011 re-run election in the state.
Counsel to Chief Ogboru, Robert Emukpoeruo also said the ruling has saved the judiciary from a major embarrassment of constitutional interpretation. He lauded Justice Buba for having painstakingly applied the principles of law in interpreting Section 180 (2A) of the amended 1999 constitution.
But Prince Collins Eselemo, governorship candidate of National Conscience Party (NCP) whose application was struck out by Justice Buba for lack of competence said the refusal of the Court to join him in the matter makes the judgement a judicial summersault but enjoined Deltans not to lose sleep in ensuring proper conduct of the April elections.
J onathan signed the 1999 Amended constitution into law on January 10, 2011, the same day Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan took oath of office as governor of Delta state after securing victory at the re-run elections of January 6, 2011.
The controversial Sections 180 and 180 (2A) of the amended 1999 constitution deals with the Electoral Law.
Meanwhile, the campaign rally of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan scheduled for Obiaruku in Ukwuani local government, Ozoro in Isoko South local government and Ughelli local government in Delta North, Delta South and Delta Central Senatorial Districts of Delta state may have suffered a set-back as the Campaign Council had reneged in its activities believing that their programme would be halted if the Court had allowed Uduaghan to enjoy the tenure extension.