A Federal court in Abuja will rule today on whether the Independent National Electoral Commission should go ahead with the supplementary poll in Kogi governorship election today.
Legal fireworks were on display on Thursday at the court, presided over by Justice Gabriel Kolawole as different parties in the five suits filed to challenge the INEC on the 21 November, 2015 Kogi State governorship election engaged one another.
However, the proceedings got more interesting when Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) joined to argue the case of the deputy governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, James Abiodun Faleke, who is asking INEC to declare him the winner of the poll, INEC declared inconclusive. In the suit, Faleke argued that the INEC decision was wrong.
He therefore asked the court to among others compel INEC to declare his joint ticket with the late Abubakar Audu winner of the election and to restrain it (INEC) from proceeding with its planned supplementary election.
In the second suit, Governor Idris Wada who is also the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party asked the court to compel INEC to declare him winner of the election, on the ground that he is the only surviving candidate in the election who scored the second highest votes after the deceased candidate of the APC.
The third suit was filed by Emanuel Daiko, who claimed to have contested the election as a candidate of the People for Democratic Change (PDC) and wants the court to among others hold the supplementary election as illegal, prevent APC from substituting its deceased candidate and to prevent APC from participating in the election on the ground
that it no longer has a candidate.
In the fourth suit, Raphael Igbokwe a member of the House of Representatives from Imo State and Stephen Wada Omaye want the court to annul the November 21 election and conduct a fresh one. It has INEC and APC as defendants.
In the fifth suit, one Johnson Jacob Usman who said he is an indigene of Kogi State as well as a registered voter and a lawyer seeks to among others, compel INEC to suspend all actions in relation to the election pending the determination of the suit and a declaration that the election ought to be cancelled. It has the AGF and INEC as defendants.
The cases were consolidated for hearing based on agreement among all the lawyers.
Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) counsel to Faleke had in his argument contended that the court has the jurisdiction to
resolve all issues raised in his client’s suit, despite arguments by the other parties that the suit should be referred to the Election Petition Tribunal.
According to Olanipekun, the case was not one for electoral tribunal because his client is only asking the court to apply constitutional provisions in determining the various questions raised.
This, according to him was because what his client wants the court to do was not to announce a winner, but to compel INEC to perform its statutory responsibility by declaring a winner in an election where results have been computed and announced.
Olanipekun further argued that the decision of the electoral commission to declare the election inconclusive was not because Audu died, but because it cancelled elections in some 91 polling units in 18 Local Governments, where it now intends to conduct supplementary election.
In the same vein, Olanipekun affirmed that INEC lacked the power to issue the “public notice” of November 24, 2015 to the APC to substitute its governorship candidate in the election following the death of Abubakar Audu, its original candidate.
According to Olanipekun, Yahaya Bello, who APC has now substituted Audu with, is an interloper, who wishes to usurp the interest of his client.
The legal luminary also argued that the prayer of Wada to be declared winner on the ground that he was the first runner up, was an admission that the election was concluded and that there was the person who came first.
Responding, lawyers to INEC, APC and PDP, who are defendants in the case urged the court to dismiss it because all the prayers sought by Faleke could only be granted by election tribunal.
Adegboyega Awomolo- SAN – for INEC, argued that “it is trite law that any matter related to, connected with or arising from election process, whether concluded or not could only be referred to the election tribunal.”
In the same vein, A.A Adeniyi, lawyer to Yahaya, said since the issue was about election, the resolution of the dispute should be taken before the election tribunal.
Pius Akubo (SAN) who represented the PDP also argued that Faleke could only inherit the outcome of his joint ticket with Audu if they had been duly elected, with the election concluded as prescribed in the Electoral Act.
The prayer by Wada that he should be declared the winner of the election following the death of Audu was similarly opposed by all the counsels to the other parties.
Awomolo noted that the prayers being sought for by Wada is not the interpretation of the Constitution, but the declaration of winner and issuance of certificate of return.
He added that the best place to go is the election tribunal created for Kogi State. Lawyers to INEC, APC and Attorney General of the Federation also argued in the same vein.
After taking arguments from all the parties, Justice Gabriel Kolawole said judgement will be delivered today4 December.
The Judgement is expected to determine among others, whether INEC) should proceed with the supplementary election scheduled for Saturday.