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SACK OF 5 PDP GOVS, A SETBACK TO DEMOCRACY -NWC

By NBF News

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said yesterday that the sack of its five governors by the Supreme Court last Friday was a setback to democracy. The party's National Working Committee's (NWC) reaction came 48 hours after justices of the Supreme Court in an unanimous decision read by Justice Walter Onoghen, brought the tenures of governors of Bayelsa, Sokoto, Kogi, Cross River and Adamawa states, to an unceremonious end.

The apex court had ruled that it was unconstitutional and illegal for their stay in office to exceed the constitutional period of four years, irrespective of fresh elections.

But the NWC, in a statement made available to newsmen and signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Prof. Rufai Ahmed Alkali, described the judgment as a setback for democracy.

While the party sympathized with the affected governors in those states, it assured that it would ensure that the current situation did not derail its plans for elections. The statement reads: 'The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) wishes to express its dismay and bewilderment over the judgment of the Supreme Court in which five governors elected on the platform of the party were removed from office in one fell swoop.'The judgment no doubt throws a major challenge to our determination to deepen democracy in our country. For us in the PDP, it is a huge setback considering the time and resources spent in the last one year to ensure smooth transition in the affected states.

'While we await a clear position from the Independent National Electoral Commission on the status of elections in these states, we call on our members to remain calm and be rest assured that we shall continue to stand by them and do everything legally possible to maintain our dominant position in those states.'The Acting National Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, on behalf of the National Working Committee wishes to express solidarity with the five governors and wishes to assure them that the leadership of the party shall spare no effort in ensuring that the current situation does not derail our preparations for elections,' the statement read.

It will be recalled that Governors Ibrahim Idris (Kogi), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto) and Liyel Imoke (Cross River), whose tenures were earlier extended by a Federal High Court and Court of Appeal beyond May 29, 2011, were ssacked by the apex court last Friday. The court removed them on the ground that it was the election of the governors that were annulled and not their oath of office. Justice Onoghen, who read the lead judgment, said the 1999 Constitution does not recognize a governor staying in office beyond four years.

According to the apex court, the framers of the Constitution did not envisage a re-run election, stating that no person elected under the 1999 Constitution can remain in office beyond the time provided by it. The court held that the 1999 Constitution did not envisage nullification, adding that even if the first election was annulled, it cannot affect the oath of office and allegiance taken. Justice Onoghen also held that the acts of the governors, under the first election, could not be valid while the oath they took would be invalid.

'To accede to the argument of the respondents is to bring uncertainty into the clear provisions of section 180 (2) of the 1999 Constitution, which will render the tenure of governors indefinite as what it will take an elected governor, whose election is nullified, to remain in almost indefinitely or for life is to continue to win the re-run elections, which would then be nullified to continue to the cycle of impunity,' the court stated.