A Federal High Court in Abuja has fixed June 23 for judgment in a suit seeking to sack Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole chose the date Tuesday after taking arguments from lawyers representing parties in the suit filed by two governorship aspirants of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Sokoto during the 2015 elections – Senator Umaru Dahiru and Abubakar Sanyinna.
It is the plaintiffs’ contention that the December 4, 2014 governorship primary election of the APC was held in violation of the party’s guideline for the conduct of such election, its constitution and the Electoral Act.
The violation, they argued, was to the effect that delegates to the primary election were neither screened nor verified and therefore, there was no list of delegates for the election.
Defendants in the case are the APC, Tambuwal and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Arguing his clients’ case yesterday, plaintiffs’ lawyer, Roland Otaru (SAN) said “having regard to the documentary exhibits attached to the originating summons and further affidavit, the issue for determination is narrow.
“All we are saying is that the 1st defendant’s governorship primary election of the 4th of December 2014 in Sokoto State did not comply with the provision of Section 87 of the Electoral Act (EA) 2010 (as amended) the constitution of the party (APC) and the guidelines rolled out for the conduct of the primary election by the APC.
“We have shown that there was no verification and accreditation of candidates. What we are saying is that there was no accreditation of candidates for the primary in accordance with the EA and the guidelines.
“The 1st defendant (APC), having failed to comply with the guideline, by not allowing accreditation and verification of delegates, the primary was a nullity,” Otaru said.
He submitted that the accreditation of delegates is fundamental to the democratic process.
Otaru argued that having failed to follow the procedure laid down in the APC guideline and its constitution, the court should set aside the primary and grant all our reliefs, which the Supreme Court said are grantable.
He noted that none of the defendants have been able to show the court the list of delegates that were accredited for the primary election.
Otaru said the onus was now on them (the defendants) to show the list of accredited candidates. He added that “All they have shown are the reports of the primary.”
Responding, lawyer to the APC and Tambuwal, Jibrin Okutepa and Sunday Ameh (both SAN) challenged the legitimacy of the suit. They urged the court to dismiss it.
In their notices of preliminary objection and counter-affidavits, which they argued separately, APC and Tambuwal that the suit was wrongly commenced by way of a originating summons.
They stated that with the contentious nature of the facts of the case, the suit ought to be commenced through a writ of summons which would have enabled parties to call witnesses to explain the facts of the case.
“We have argued in our affidavit that these proceedings are not fit to come via originating summons,” he said.
On the plaintiffs’ claim of non-accreditation of delegates during the primaries, Okutepa said the onus was on the plaintiffs to call delegates as witnesses to show that they were not accredited.
He said: “The burden is on the plaintiffs to call delegates to come to court to show that they were not accredited. This case is bereft of any evidential support to warrant any declaration to be made in favour of the plaintiffs.”
Okutepa argued that the plaintiffs’ prayer seeking the conduct of fresh primaries was not only ungrantable but could push the court to a path of collision with the Constitution in a situation where the law provided that primaries must be held 60days before the main election.
Ameh argued in similar vein and maintained in his submission on his notice of preliminary objection that the suit was wrongly commenced.
He said, “The preliminary objection challenges the manner of commencement of the action through an originating summons.
“That the facts for and against the suit are hostile so much so that our counter-affidavits filed in response to the the plaintiffs’ affidavit led the plaintiffs to file a further and better affidavit shows that the facts are contentious and requires explanations.”
Lawyer to INEC Alhassan Umar, said the commission had filed a counter-affidavit to enable it to exhibit its “monitoring report of APC governorship primaries in Sokoto State.”
He however said that in compliance with the admonition of the Supreme Court in plethora of cases, the commission would remain neutral and not take side with any of the plaintiffs and the two other defendants.
Umar said, “The pith of our case is that in pursuant of the constitutional mandate of the third defendant we monitored the primaries and the report is Exhibit I earlier referred.
“In the case of Amaechi against INEC, the Supreme Court upheld the sanctity of the report of primaries issued by the third defendant (INEC).”
Otaru, who later responded to the preliminary objection by Tambuwal and APC, argued that there was no any form of “friction” in the case to warrant the commencement of the suit via a writ of summons.
He also said the two notices of preliminary objection did not comply with Order 29(4)(a) of the Civil Procedure Rules of the Federal High Court his court having not been filed within 21 days of the defendants’ being served with the plaintiffs’ originating summons.
Okutepa, on point of law, argued that Order 29 of the Civil Procedure Rules of the Federal High Court was not applicable to the situation “because we are not challenging the jurisdiction of the court.
He said, “The suit has been wrongly commenced. We are not saying the court cannot hear the case.
“The court can hear it through a writ of summons so that parties can call witnesses.”