CONFUSION IN SOKOTO: S'COURT, NJC STEP INTO WAMAKKO, A'COURT FACE-OFF OVER 2007 POLL
There are strong indications that the Wednesday date given by the Appeal Court to deliver its verdict on the Sokoto State 2007 gubernatorial election may not hold after all.
Daily Sun learnt that the apex court may have intervened in the matter and has now fixed March 15, 2010 to hear an appeal filed by Governor Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko of Sokoto State in connection with the ongoing litigation against his election by the candidate of the DPP, Maigari Dingyadi.
This decision, automatically halts any further proceedings on the matter by the Court of Appeal. Also the National Judicial Council, in response to a petition filed by Wammako's lawyers, is said to have directed that all actions be suspended at the Court of Appeal, Sokoto pending its investigations into the matter.
Until the latest development, the Appeal Court registrar had last week, served notice of the Wednesday, February 23 date to the lawyers of all the concerned parties, even as there were allegations from the opposition camp that PDP was working to frustrate that date.
The Supreme Court is expected to make a pronouncement on the interpretation of an earlier verdict of the Court of Appeal, Kaduna which voided the April 14, 2007 election victory of Governor Wammako and ordered fresh election among all those who contested.
The DPP candidate had gone to the Court of Appeal, Sokoto in his bid to pursue his contention that the Court of Appeal, Kaduna's verdict implied that Wammako could not contest again in the fresh election it ordered to be conducted. The candidate had earlier failed to obtain such a declaration first from the Federal High Court, Abuja and later from the second Election Appeal Tribunal in Sokoto, both of which maintained lack of jurisdiction to interpret the verdict of the Court of Appeal, Kaduna.
Governor Wammako in his objection to the appeal before the Court of Appeal, Sokoto, argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to interpret, review or set aside a final judgment delivered by a sister division of the same court and invoked his rights under Section 395(3) of the constitution that makes it mandatory for the Court of Appeal to make a reference to the Supreme Court for interpretation of such a substantial question of law before taking any decision on the matter.
The petition before the National Judicial Council arose from the fixing of February 23, 2010 by the Court of Appeal, Sokoto for judgment on the matter while the motion for reference to the Supreme Court was still pending as well as the inclusion of the wife of a prominent politician in the panel of judges, in a repeat of the similar appointment of the wife of Adamu Bulkachuwa, DPP governorship candidate in the 2007 election, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, who presided over the panel of judges that gave the Court of Appeal, Kaduna judgment that annulled the first election victory of Governor Wammako.
The petition also complained of the arbitrariness and undue influence manifested by the apparent interest shown by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami, who caused all of the panel of judges to be held before him in Abuja instead of Sokoto where the court is sitting. However, the Wamakko camp had thought it had the situation under control, and was waiting on the Supreme Court when notice of the judgment was circulated.
'Take notice that the above mentioned appeal/motion will be listed for judgment before the Court of Appeal sitting at Dendo Road, off Sultan Abubakar Road, near old Police Headquarters, Sokoto, on February 24, 2010 at 9.00 o'clock or soon thereafter,' the noticed dated February 15, 2010 reads in part.