Nigeria: Anxiety in Imo, Zamfara As Supreme Court Hears Governorship Applications Today

18 February 2020

Owerri, Gusau and Lagos — There is high anticipation in the country as the Supreme Court considers the two applications one each by the former governor of Imo State, Emeka Ihedioha and members of the APC in Zamfara State challenging the decisions of the court.

Ihedioha and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had in an application dated February 5, 2020 and brought through his counsel, Kanu Agabi (SAN) asked the apex court to set aside its judgement of January 14, which nullified his victory in the March 9, 2019 election and declared Hope Uzodinma winner of the election after he presented excluded results from 388 polling units.

On its part, the Zamfara application, dated November 27, 2019, was brought by the APC faction loyal to former governor Abdulaziz Yari through their counsel, Edwin Clarke (SAN), seeking a review of the consequential order of the apex court which on March 24, 2019 nullified the election of candidates of the party over failure to conduct a proper primary.

Tension in Imo, Zamfara calm

In Owerri, the Imo State capital, there is heightened apprehension over the anticipated hearing of the application seeking to set aside the earlier judgment of the apex court.

There was heavy traffic as people tried to conclude business and return home in anticipation of any eventuality.

But the police, in a statement signed by the Police Public Relations Officer, SP Orlando Ikeokwu, have assured residents of their safety, asking them to go about their normal duties without fear.

The statement said it had come to the notice of the Imo State Police Command that some hoodlums were planning to hide under the protests/rallies as witnessed in the last few weeks to cause mayhem in the state.

In Gusau, Zamfara State, Daily Trust reports that there is no anxiety as situation in the state capital was calm with activities going on as normal in the state.

Our correspondent, who visited many places in Gusau, observed that people were going about their businesses. There was no presence of heavy security personnel in the state capital that signified that anything might happen.

However, few people were seen discussing about the matter in public places but without any anxiety. Findings by Daily Trust revealed that some people were not even aware about the move to review the judgement.

Also, there was no feeling of anxiety among the politicians who might be directly affected by the outcome of the judgement review with many of them expressing no confidence at the process.

However, few of the APC and PDP staunch loyalists, who spoke to Daily Trust, expressed confidence that the review of the judgement would turn out to be in their favour with some of them outlining reasons why the judgement should favour them.

The APC camp loyal to Yari in Zamfara State said it is either the Supreme Court restores the mandate of its candidates or orders a fresh poll in the state.

One of the candidates of the APC told our correspondent, "we expect the court to restore our mandate or at least call for fresh election."

Also, a former commissioner during Abdulaziz Yari's administration in Zamfara, Alhaji Ibrahim Birnin Magaji, said they are optimistic that the apex court judgement would favour their party.

In a phone interview, he said what they are expecting from the justices of the Supreme Court is justice and nothing more.

But Yusuf Idris, one of the media aides to Governor Bello Matawalle, said considering the calibre of the justices of the apex court, the review being sought by the APC would be thrown out.

"It is a squabble between them in their party, the APC. We have no fear considering the calibre of the justices of the Supreme Court. I don't see them changing the May 24 judgement which was applauded from both within the country and abroad," he said.

Imo new issues

In its judgment, a seven-member panel of justices presided by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, held that Ihedioha was not validly elected as governor by majority of lawful votes cast in the election.

The panel therefore ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Ihedioha and a fresh certificate of return issued to Uzodinma forthwith and "he should be sworn in as governor immediately."

In the main judgment read by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, the apex court held that Uzodinma proved the allegation of exclusion of results in 388 polling units of the state where he scored 213,695 votes.

In the Zamfara judgment, a five-member panel of justices presided by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, in a unanimous judgment held that the party in the state failed to conduct primaries in accordance with the party rules.

In the lead judgment by Justice Paul Adamu Galinji, the apex court held that all votes cast for the APC were "wasted votes" and declared that all political parties with the second highest votes in the elections and the required spread, are elected to the various elections.

The apex court had in its judgement on a suit by Senator Kabiru Garba Marafa on May 24 last year nullified the victory of all the APC candidates in the last general elections, thus paved way for the emergence of those of the PDP.

But INEC may ask for adjournment in the Zamfara appeal to enable it respond properly.

Meanwhile, a new twist has been added to the Imo state governorship tussle as the Supreme Court is set to hear the fresh application by the ousted Governor, Ihedioha challenging the January 14 judgement.

Some pro-democracy activists and human rights lawyers said that neither Ihedioha, nor Senator Uzodinma who was declared winner by the apex court met the requirements of the constitution to become the governor.

In their argument, they said the Supreme Court should have ordered a rerun as both Ihedioha and Uzodinma did not secure 25 per cent votes in two-third of local governments in the state to be declared the winner.

The activists addressed a press conference in Lagos under the aegis of the Movement for the Advancement of Democracy in Nigeria in collaboration with Cadrell Advocacy Centre, Youth Arise for Nigeria and Constitutional Rights Advocates Initiative.

Addressing the press conference on behalf of the movement, Barr. Liborous Oshoma said going by the outcome of the 2019 election in Imo State as declared by the INEC, the ballot did not produce a winner if the provision of section 179 (2) of the constitution is anything to go by.

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