TENURE ELONGATION: INEC HEADS FOR S' COURT
Following confusion arising from the judgment of an Abuja Federal High Court stopping it from conducting governorship elections in five states in April, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is set to seek judicial interpretations of certain relevant section of the 2010 amended constitution bordering on the tenure of the governors.
This is even as over 20 governorship candidates in the five states who felt strongly about the judgment had assembled to challenge the verdict this week.
Former Nigerian ambassador to South Africa and governorship candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in Adamawa State, Buba Marwa confirmed yesterday that some of the aspirants were already talking together over the matter 'and our lawyers are putting heads together for a consolidated action.'
A resident electoral commissioner (REC), who pleaded anonymity, confirmed to Daily Sun yesterday that the commission had been advised by its consortium of lawyers to seek judicial interpretation at the Supreme Court of the repealed and amended Section 180 of the 1999 Constitution bordering on the tenure of the governors.
However, his position contradicted that of the INEC chairman's Chief Press Secretary, Kayode Robert Idowu, who said he was not aware of judicial interpretation move by the commission but that the commission was planning to appeal the judgment. Meanwhile, the REC explained that the commission could have just filed an appeal against the judgment of Justice Adamu Bello, but due to time constraint, it had decided to explore the available opportunity of seeking judicial interpretation of the relevant sections of the constitution having to do with the tenure of the governors at the Supreme Court to lay the controversies to rest quickly.
The commissioner explained that a meeting presided over by INEC's Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, with some national commissioners of the commission in attendance and the commission's lawyers concluded that there was no time for the judicial dispute to pass through the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court for determination before the elections.
'Consequently, the legal team of the commission was mandated to approach the Court of Appeal for a waiver to allow the matter to proceed straight to the Supreme Court for interpretation of the controversial laws and final determination ahead of the April elections,' he noted.
Justice Bello had barred INEC from conducting governorship elections in Bayelsa, Cross River, Kogi, Sokoto and Adamawa states, saying that the tenure of the governors; Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa); Liyel Imoke (Cross River); Ibrahim Idris ( Kogi); Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto) and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), all of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), would expire next year and not on May 29, 2011.
He further ruled that Section 180 of the 1999 Constitution was amended in 2010 by the National Assembly and signed into law by the president, adding that the amendment could not have a retroactive effect since the rerun elections had taken place before the amendment. To this end, Idris would vacate office on April 5, 2012, Nyako April 30, 2012, Wamakko, May 28, 2012 and Imoke on August 28, 2012.
It would be recalled that Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, who won a re-run election on January 6, also applied to be joined in the suit after his victory in the re-run election.
It was learnt over the weekend that the affected governorship candidates numbering about 20 from the opposition parties in the five states had come together to strategize on how to get the judgment vacated to pave the way for them to contest the April 16 gubernatorial election.
Marwa, who described the judgment as a big blow in an interview with newsmen yesterday, explained that there was no way the judgment would be allowed to stand, adding that whether INEC appealed the judgment or not, he and other affected candidates would challenge the verdict and that the lawyers were putting the papers together.
He said: 'Our lawyers are talking together. Those of us affected are looking at the possibility of a joint-action; we are moving in one direction to see how to consolidate the appeal. I was quoted to have made some derogatory remarks about the judge who delivered the judgment. I disagree with the judgment but not with the judge and didn't use any foul language against the judge.
'If you say the tenure of the governors starts from the day they took oath afresh after re-run elections, what of the actions he has taken before then, what of all the things he has committed the state to, the loans taken, what of monies spent, are we going to unwind it and pretending nothing has happened before the re-run. The people will like to know, these are the issues our lawyers would take up. This week, we are filing the appeal.'