The political atmosphere in Katsina State seems to have changed when the Court of Appeal sitting in Kaduna recently set aside the decision of the Katsina State National and State House of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal which nullified the election of almost all the lawmakers who won the recent parliamentary election under the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC.
The abysmal performance of candidates who contested the last April parliamentary election under the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, made the party to approach the election petition tribunal sitting in the state to see whether they could get the power which they lost at the polls through the court. Interestingly, the Katsina State National and State House of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal under the chairmanship of Justice Solomon Akinteye on September 28 nullified the election of almost all the lawmakers that were elected under the platform of CPC and ordered for the fresh election within 90 days.
However, the affected parliamentarians at both national and state houses of assembly approached the Court of Appeal, Kaduna division for redress over what they alleged through their counsels as judicial summersault at the election petition tribunal in the state. The petitioners (PDP and its candidates) at the tribunal sued several winners of parliamentary election under the CPC in Katsina State on the basis that they were not sponsored by the party while making reference to the appeal court judgment of 20th April. They affirmed that the affected lawmakers were not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election and that at the time of election they were not qualified to contest as they were not sponsored by the political parties.
The respondents (CPC candidates) on the other hand challenged the jurisdiction of the election petition tribunal on the ground that it has no jurisdiction over the pre-election matter and that the case in question is already at the Supreme Court. In the preliminary objection, the respondents were contending that the tribunal has no jurisdiction on the issue of nomination and sponsorship and that non-sponsorship of candidates does not fall within the disqualifying elements in section 66 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). The respondents also maintained that the issue of nomination and sponsorship of candidates by the CPC is its internal affairs and as a result the tribunal lacks jurisdiction to entertain it.
However, Solomon Akinteye, Chairman of National and State House of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal in Katsina State while delivering his judgment on 28th September, 2011 nullified the election of several lawmakers elected under the platform of CPC but these legislators at both upper and lower chambers appealed the case at the court of appeal on the ground that the election petition tribunal lacks jurisdiction to entertain the case that is already at the Supreme Court and that the tribunal is only responsible to post-election cases and not pre-election case. Their prayers were granted when the Court of Appeal, Kaduna Division set aside the decision of election petition tribunal in Katsina State.
The political atmosphere in Katsina State changed drastically after the Appeal Court’s judgment on November 16, 2011 in Kaduna State. The petition written to President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Dahiru Mustapher by Senator Mahmud Kanti Bello, PDP candidate who lost Katsina North Senatorial District Election to his opponent, Senator Abdu Umar Yandoma of CPC also points to the scenario on the ground. Senator Kanti Bello said he was compelled to write this petition because he was barred from appealing against the judgment of the court based on the provisions of Electoral Act 2010 which made the Appeal Court the final bus stop of all cases originating from election petition tribunal on national and state house of assembly election. The Senator is praying President Jonathan and Chief justice of Nigeria to cause an investigation into the judgment of the Court of Appeal and possibly upturn the judgment in his favour.
Parts of the petition by Senator Kanti Bello with the heading “PETITION AGAINST THE PERVERSE JUDGMENT DELIVERED BY THE COURT OF APPEAL IN ELECTION PETITION APPEAL NO.CA/K/EP/NA/05: SEN. ABDU UMAR YANDOMA V. SEN. KANTI BELLO & 40RS” read “I wish to bring to your Lordships notice, the very perverse judgment delivered by Court of Appeal on the 16TH of November, 2011 in the above mentioned Election Appeal.
“The Election Tribunal delivered its judgment on the 28th of September 2011. In its well reasoned judgment, the tribunal analyzed the law and facts before it and held that on the strength of the subsisting judgment of the Court of Appeal, Senator Abdu Yandoma was not a candidate at the election, not being sponsored by a political party as mandatorily required by section 65 of the constitution. The tribunal consequently nullified the election and ordered a bye-election.
“This action by the court of appeal can only but diminishes the administration of justice in the eyes of right thinking members of the society and ultimately erodes our confidence in the judiciary as impartial arbiter of our disputes. Ultimately our society is the looser. “I urge your lordship to cause this matter to be promptly investigated with a view to mitigating the part of Kaduna Division of Court of Appeal. (coram, Amina A. Augue, JCA; Abdul Abokie JCA and Theresa N. Orji Abadua JCA).”
A close observer of recent political development in Katsina State but does not want his name on print said it is funny and unfortunate that those who were voted out by their electorate during the election will seek to upturn the decision of the electorate through the tribunal. The source further laments that it is unfortunate to give judiciary all sorts of names when ever the ruling PDP loses a case in the court, pointing out that such a thing is not good for the nation nascent democracy.
It will be recalled that despite the internal crisis of CPC before the general election this year, the party performed very well during the last parliamentary election winning all the 3 senatorial seats and 12 out of the 15 House of Representatives seats in Katsina State . This situation to some certain extent made the ruling PDP to swing into action possibly to get some seats through the judiciary. But this hope is obviously becoming very slim considering the Appeal Court recent judgment which put to an end to legal battle between the PDP and CPC. The other case at the Supreme Court only bothers on the internal crisis of CPC and is between CPC candidates.
It will be recalled that CPC was plunged into internal crisis before the general election. This was largely due to circumstances surrounding the conducts of the primary elections. The primary elections of 8th January this year was inconclusive largely because INEC indicated that the reports for the 34 local government areas were not complete. In January 13 another primary was purportedly conducted producing former Speaker of House of Representatives, Aminu Masari as the governorship candidate of the party for the April election but these elections were also annulled as it was alleged that the Coordinator of Masari Campaign Organization, Dr. Mustapha Iyinusa allegedly completed the documents in his house without recourse to the electoral guideline of the party. Sources affirmed that the 34 local government party chairmen and their secretaries as well as officials from Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies which supposed to be around for the primaries according to CPC guidelines for primaries were not present during this January 13 primary elections.
However, in an effort to conduct fresh election that will be in compliance with CPC guidelines and Electoral Act 2010, Engr. Suleiman Adamu was sent from national headquarters of CPC to conduct primary election on January 15th 2011. According to sources Engr. Adamu a chieftain of CPC ensured that the 34 local government party chairmen and their secretaries as well as INEC officials, securities agencies and relevant groups monitor the primary elections on 15th January. The primary elections of 15th January produced Senator Yakubu Garba Lado, Senator Abdu Yandoma, Senator Sani Stores and 41 others as winners.
Drama ensued when in late January 2011, the national headquarters of CPC substituted the names of the winners of January 15TH with the Hon. Aminu Masari group. The state chairman of CPC in Kastina State had earlier forwarded the names of winners of January 15TH primaries including Laddo and 43 others to the national headquarters of the party as advertised. This scenario made all the winners of January 15th primary election to approach the Federal High Court, Abuja for redress. The court subsequently affirmed that Senator Lado and 43 other are actually the authentic candidates of CPC for the April 2011 general election. Masiri group also appealed the case to the Court of Appeal but the judgment of this court came after the parliamentary election had been conducted. This made all the lawmakers who won the election based the decision of the federal high court to alleged that the order of Appeal Court setting aside the decision of the lower court is taken by the event and that they election cannot be affected by such order. The case is already at the Supreme Court for determination.
When Senator Senator Abdu Yandoma, representing Katsina North Senatorial District in the Upper Legislative Chamber was asked to comment on the November 15th Court of Appeal Judgment and the allegation of his opponent, Senator Kanti Bello, he said the future of Nigerian democracy is bright because of the fact that judiciary is now living up to its responsibility. According to Senator Yandoma, judiciary should be commended based on some sound judgments it has delivered in the recent times. He said time will come when politicians who lost election in a transparent manner will no longer go to the court to twist the decision of the electorate as the nation electoral system would be improved tremendously.
Senator Yandoma affirmed that Senator Kanti Bello made the allegations he published in some newspapers because he is ignorant of the law. According to him, Kanti Bello can neither change the position of the Appeal Court nor his petition do same affirming that there is no tribunal that can decide on a pre – election matter and when the case is in the Supreme Court, there is no court of law that can decide against it. He said Bello did what he did because his lawyers are benefiting seriously from him. He further maintained that Senator Kanti Bello cannot in any way intimidate the judiciary.
Responding to the same issue, Senator Ahmed Sani Stores representing Katsina Central Senatorial District in the Senate said Court Appeal has done justice to the case as it has made it very clear that election petition tribunal has no jurisdiction over pre-election matters. He said the decision of Court of Appeal setting aside the judgment of election petition tribunal is an indication that someone can get justice at the judiciary. According to him, the issue which the Kastina State National and State House of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal based their judgment on is a pre-election matter which does not in any way concern it.
Senator Sani Stores said as of the time of the parliamentary election this year they are the valid candidates of CPC based on the judgment of Federal High Court Katsina and Abuja. “Both Federal High Court in Katsina and Abuja held that we are the valid candidates of CPC for the April Polls. The people of Katsina State came out to vote and they voted for us and CPC. For election petition tribunal to do something different is a miscarriage of justice and violation of fundamental democratic right of citizens of Katsina State,” Sani Stores said. According to him, judiciary balances the power regardless of political affiliation and interest and anywhere in
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