SUPREME COURT HALTS APPEAL COURT JUDGMENT
Supreme Court halts Appeal Court judgment
BY GOWON EMAKPE
March 15, 2010 11:56PM
A Justice of the Supreme Court yesterday disqualified himself from presiding over the appeal of Sokoto State gubernatorial election. He, in turn ordered the Court of Appeal, Sokoto Division, to postpone indefinitely its judgment in the governorship tussle between Sokoto State governor, Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and his challenger, Alhaji Muhammadu Maigari Dingyadi of the Democratic People's Party (DPP).
At yesterday's sitting, Justice Dahiru Musdapher disqualified himself on the grounds that he was not comfortable with adjudicating on the matter:
'I had taken part in discussion pertaining to the case between the CJN and the President of the Court of Appeal. I did not personally feel comfortable to adjudicate in this matter. I am uncomfortable hearing this case because of the fact that I had taken part in discussion on issues pertaining to this case. I hope you understand my feelings.'
He apologised to the parties and begged them to allow him disqualify himself from taking part in the hearing of the case.
But after disqualifying himself, he went further to order the Court of Appeal not to deliver its judgment slated for today, until the Chief Justice of Nigeria sets up a panel to determine the case one way or the other. He adjourned the matter to April 1st, for hearing.
The DPP and its candidate, Dingyadi, have challenged the decision of the Election Petition Tribunal over the qualification of Mr. Wamakko to contest the repeat election in Sokoto State.
The court made the order after the counsel to the governor, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, told the court that the Appeal Court in Sokoto had issued a notice to deliver judgment in the case today (Tuesday, 16th March).
But efforts by the counsel to the Democratic People's Party (DPP), Mr. Rickey Tarfa (SAN), to stop the apex court from halting the Court of Appeal from delivering the judgment came to nought.
Mr. Tarfa had explained to the Supreme Court's justices that the appeal before them had been withdrawn and that it had nothing to do with the judgment to be delivered in Sokoto.
But the Justices disagreed as they held that the appeal before them would be rendered nugatory if the Court of Appeal delivered judgment on the matter.
The circumstances surrounding the re-run governorship election which produced the incumbent governor, Wamako, are already causing serious ripples within the judiciary.
The election has pitched the Supreme Court against the Court of Appeal on one hand, and the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Iyorgher Katsina-Alu and the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami, on the other.
While the leadership of the Court of Appeal under Salami is bent on reviewing the case with the aim of disqualifying Wamako, the Supreme Court is of the view that the Appeal Court should tread cautiously.
Earlier, Mr. Wamako had written a letter to the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Salami, protesting the plans by the Sokoto State governorship Appeal Panel to deliver a judgment on March 16th, despite a notice from the National Judicial Council directing the panel to stop sitting.
The letter was signed by Mr. Alfred Agu, a lawyer to Wamako. The lawyer also noted that there were pending motions which ought to be taken before a judgment could be delivered in the said appeal.
Already petitions had been written to the National Judicial Council alleging shady deals by some of the Appeal Court's Justices. It was on the basis of these petitions that the NJC wrote to the President of the Court asking him to discontinue for the time being all appeals on the Sokoto governorship election.