The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, yesterday, implored the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal to expedite hearing in its suit, challenging the Federal High Court judgment that hitherto excluded five states of the federation from partaking in the governorship polls now billed for April 26.
The electoral body is urging the appellate court to promptly decide the expiration of the current tenures of the five sitting governors of Kogi, Sokoto, Cross River, Adamawa and Bayelsa states respectively, with a view to determining whether the trial High Court erred in law or not, by stopping it from conducting gubernatorial elections in the aforementioned states this month.
The High Court which was presided by Justice Adamu Bello, on February 23, barred INEC from including these five states in its electoral plans for this year, saying that vacancy would legally exist in the states in 2012.
Justice Bello specifically held that the tenure of the governors legally commenced in 2008 when they took fresh oath of office and oath of allegiance, sequel to the nullification of their previous elections of April 14, 2007, by various divisions of the appellate court.
The judge went ahead to list dates for the termination of the tenures of the five governors as, Ibrahim Idris, Kogi, April 5, 2012, Aliyu Wammakko, Sokoto, May 28,2012, Timipre Sylva, Bayelsa, May 29, 2012, Liyel Imoke, August 28, 2012, and Murtala Nyako, Adamawa, April 30th, 2012.
However, INEC have since challenged the court judgment, insisting that the tenure of the affected governors aught to expire by May 29 this year.
INEC in opposition to the judgment, lodged five separate appeals against the five affected governors at the Appeal Court, Abuja division, just as the Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, equally filed his own appeal wherein it joined both the INEC and the five governors as respondents.
Court consolidates 5 appeals
At the resumed hearing of the case, the appellate court presided by Justice Paul Adamu Galinje, decided to consolidate three of the appeals that came up for hearing yesterday.
The three consolidated appeals were those challenging the tenure of governors of Kogi, Sokoto and Adamawa states respectively.
The court further held that the remaining two appeals involving Bayelsa and Cross River states, as well as that of the AGF, would be consolidated with the others on April 7, when the matter would come up again for hearing.
Justice Galinge said that the five appeals were received separately by the appellate court, thereby warranting the issuance of separate hearing dates for the cases.
"Since the issues raised in all the appeals were similar, the proper thing to do is to consolidate them so that this court will not be overburdened unnecessarily", argued counsel to governor Wamakko, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN.
Following a no objection stance by the INEC lawyer, Chief A.B Mahmood, SAN, yesterday, the three appeals were consolidated for hearing on April 7.
Meantime, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which was listed in the appeals by the INEC as the 2nd respondent, has urged the appeal court to dismiss the suit before it as not only grossly lacking in merit, but for equally amounting to an abuse of judicial time.
In a counter affidavit it filed through its national legal adviser, Chief Olusola Oke, against the appeal, the party insisted that the judgment of the lower court is impeccable, arguing that it was a commendable interpretation of the clear wordings of the constitution.