1 June 2013

Nigeria: Fayemi Wins As Court Bars PDP On Amaechi

The Supreme Court Friday in Abuja affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeal which in 2010 returned Dr. Kayode Fayemi of the Action Congress of Nigeria as the duly elected Governor of Ekiti State in the 2007 governorship election in the state.

Also Friday, a Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt stopped the Peoples Democratic Party from taking further action against the Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, pending the hearing of a substantive suit challenging his suspension from the party.

Minutes after the news of the ruling filtered into Ekiti State, there was wild jubilation across the length and breadth of the state, especially Ado-Ekiti, the capital of Ekiti State.

Former governor Segun Oni had approached the Supreme Court over the 2007 governorship election, having been dissatisfied with the judgement of the Appeal Court which dismissed his appeal against Justice Ayo Salami's judgement delivered on October 15, 2010.

The apex court in a unanimous decision by a seven man-panel of justices held that the appeal brought by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party Olusegun Adebayo Oni lacked merit as the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the appeal.

The lead judgement delivered by Justice Sylvester Ngwuta stated: "the appellant's entire case when stripped of its extravagant build-ups and reduced to its proper frame, is simply an invitation to rely on Section 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution to strip the ruling of the Court of Appeal of the finality granted to it by Section 246(3) of the same Constitution.

"In other words, the appellants (Oni & PDP) want us to rely on Section 36(1) of the Constitution, 1999 to invalidate or render inoperative, the finality clause in Section 246(3) of the same Constitution. In diverse decisions on appeals relating to Section 285(7) of the Constitution of the Federation 1999 (as amended) this court has consistently declined to derogate from, close its eyes to, depart from, modify or set aside expressly or by implication, a provision of the constitution under any pretext."

Justice Ngwuta noted that "Section 246(3) of the same Constitution clothed the judgement of the said governorship election petition appeal with the toga of finality. This court set aside the judgement in FRN v. Ifeagwu (supra) even though the law creating the tribunal made its decision final because the decision did not meet the requirements of the relevant provisions of the defunct 1979 Constitution.

" There is no law, or any law, similar to Decree No. 18 of 1994, by which this court can review the decision of the Court of Appeal in governorship election petition appeals.

"A provision of the Constitution may seem out of touch with reality at any particular point in time, but in such cases, even when proven, the court is not competent to intervene. The court is bound by the Doctrine of Separation of Powers, under which the business of lawmaking is in the exclusive domain of the Legislative made up of the Upper and Lower Chambers of the National Assembly," he added.

"The court does not hunger after jurisdiction. It can expound, but should not under any circumstance, such as the one presented in this appeal, expand jurisdiction. The court has no jurisdiction to hear the appeal and consequently, I sustain the 1st to 2nd and 3rd to 6th respondents' preliminary objection on want of jurisdiction. The appeal is accordingly struck out" he declared.

Reacting shortly after the judgement Friday, Governor Fayemi, lauded the country's judiciary for "again demonstrating its resolve to always uphold the tenet of truth and justice."

Fayemi said: "Today's victory has again confirmed that truth will always prevail no matter the situation and that Ekiti State will no longer be governed through fraudulent means. There was no basis for the petition by Oni. His claims were frivolous, baseless and a waste of time. I think we should also put in place laws that will punish electoral offenders. I believe if Oni had been punished for rigging the 2007 governorship election in Ekiti State, he would not have had the effrontery to approach the court again seeking a backdoor to the governorship seat."

On his part, Oni said he was satisfied with the judgement, since "he can't question God." He added: "When God wants to favour some one, He will refuse to answer your prayers at the moment of request."

Fayemi had after the 2007 governorship elections in Ekiti State on April 14th gone to the Governorship and National Assembly/ Legislative House Election Tribunal to challenge the declaration of Oni by the Independent National Electoral Commission as the validly elected governor of the state.

The tribunal in its decision delivered on 28th November 2008 dismissed his petition.

Not satisfied with the decision, he approached the Court of Appeal Ilorin, which prior to the amendment of the Constitution was the last court in governorship elections.

The Court of Appeal on February 2nd, 2009 delivered its judgement and allowed the appeal in part and ordered a supplementary election in 63 wards, leaving the result in six wards intact and to be added to the result of the supplementary election in the 63 wards affected.

INEC cited as the 3rd respondent in the appeal duly complied with the order of the Court of Appeal and on May 5, 2009 both Oni and Fayemi contested the election with the candidates of other eleven political parties.

When the result of the supplementary election was added to the result of the six uncontested wards, the 1st appellant (Oni) was declared the winner with 111,140 votes against the 1st respondent's (Fayemi) 107,017 votes.

Still not satisfied Fayemi challenged the result of the election. In its majority decision rendered on May 5th, 2010 the tribunal annulled the result of the supplementary election in some wards and dismissed the petition.

Fayemi appealed to the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division against the majority decision of the tribunal and by its judgement delivered on October 15th 2010 the court allowed the appeal and set aside the majority decision and affirmed the minority decision which pronounced Fayemi the duly elected Governor of Ekiti State.

On the 13th of January 2011, Oni wrote a petition headed "Complaint against Hon. Justice Ayo Salami and Others for my premeditated and injudicious removal from office as Governor of Ekiti State" to the National Judicial Council (NJC).

While the petition was pending before the NJC, precisely on March 14th, 2011 the appellants (Oni and PDP) brought a motion on notice pursuant to the inherent jurisdiction of the court for a number of reliefs including, "An order setting aside the judgement of the Court of Appeal of 15th October 2010, nullifying his election as the Governor of Ekiti State."

In Port Harcourt, the PDP was barred from taking further action against Amaechi, pending the hearing of a substantive suit challenging his suspension from the party.

Amaechi had gone to the court, presided by Justice Emmanuel Ogbuji, challenging his suspension from the PDP by the National Working Committee of the party.

Amaechi's team of lawyers was led by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Akin Olujinmi.

After hearing the application, Ogbuji issued the order and also directed the PDP to maintain the status quo in the matter until the substantive suit brought by the governor was heard.

The court also summoned the PDP to appear before it on Thursday, June 6.

Ogbuji also directed Amaechi to serve the PDP the necessary court processes by pasting them on the walls of the party in Abuja and through publications in three national dailies.

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