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INEC And Imo Governorship Case

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Nduka Madu

 

It is now approximately thirty months since the good people of lmo State gave Chief Martin Agbaso, the gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) an overwhelming mandate to govern them for four years. Thirty months after, the question on the lips of the preponderant majority of lmo men and women today is how much longer will they have to wait for justice to be done to them?

When the Court of Appeal sitting at Abuja decided, on the 26th of February, 2007, that it has jurisdiction to hear Chief Agbaso’s appeal, the people of lmo State heaved a big sigh of relief in the belief that at last the matter was coming to a head. This was especially so as the court was undeterred by the spirited attempts made by the legal representation of both INEC and Chief Ohakim to use technicalities to once again scuttle Chief Agbaso’s bid to be heard. The court held with remarkable resoluteness, that the twin issue of whether INEC had power under the law to cancel the April 14 Elections in the circumstances and in the manner in which it did, had not been pronounced upon or even addressed by any court. Both INEC and Chief Ohakim’s legal teams speedily headed for the Supreme Court to continue their challenge of the Court of Appeal’s jurisdiction to hear Chief Agbaso’s appeal.

Chief Agbaso’s lead counsel, arguing that the Agbaso case was time bound, tried desperately but without success, to persuade the Court of Appeal to allow the parties to adopt their briefs which had all been filed by then, so that whenever the Supreme Court ruled on the Appeal Court’s jurisdiction, a date for judgment on the substantive suit would be fixed and so expedite the process. The court’s position was that it was established law that once a matter had gone before the Supreme Court, proceedings on the matter in all subsidiary courts must cease pending the Supreme Court’s decision or direction on it.

In the spirit of the urgency demanded by the Agbaso suit, the Supreme Court quickly fixed the hearing of the case in the hope that an accelerated hearing would be given to the matter. But on the day of hearing, the INEC and Chief Ohakim’s camps came with new motions which they deliberately neglected to file so that they could get time elongation to file them which they indeed got. Chief Agbaso’s lead counsel wasted no time in alerting the court that the game plan of the opposition was to delay and prolong proceedings for as long as possible so as to prolong the illegal stay of Chief Ohakim in office. The presiding justice promptly gave the assurance that the court would take adequate steps to ensure that proceedings were not unnecessarily delayed. It was therefore surprising to the Agbaso camp when the court fixed a four and half month adjournment. When Chief Agbaso’s lead counsel protested, the presiding judge promptly assured him that the September 29 date which the court had fixed for the next hearing of the case was in fact the earliest possible date the matter could be heard.

This was because the court would be proceeding on its annual recess in July. Besides, it had at least four pending judgements to write and deliver before the court went on vacation.

Four and half months have now sped past and September 29, 2009 is now around the corner. The question now is: will the Ohakim and lNEC camps be prepared to proceed or will they conjure up new devices for obtaining more elongation of the proceedings? The fact of the matter is that they know that they cannot successfully challenge the facts of Chief Agbaso’s case. As a member of their legal team confided, there is no doubt that lNEC had no legal grounds on which to base its decision to annul the April 14 Imo State Governorship elections. So, their game plan from the beginning has been and still continues to be, to use all the legal technicalities they can muster to delay the hearing of the substantial case. Their hope is that they will succeed in stalling the conclusion of the case well beyond the three years Chief Ngige remained illegally in office in Anambra State to enable Chief Ohakim serve, if not the full four years, at least long beyond the three years Ngige served. The question is, will they succeed?

It will be a travesty of justice of unimaginable proportions were that to happen. To begin with, the Court of Appeal had ruled on February 26, 2009 that the April 28 election, on the basis of which Chief Ohakim assumed and remains in office, ought not to have been held ab initio. What this means is that the election that ostensibly brought him to power is invalid. That being so, his tenure is invalid and so he should be made to vacate the office of Governor of Imo State without further delay. The issue has even been compounded and made much worse for Chief Ohakim by his defection from the Progressive Peoples Alliance, PPA, on the platform of which he contested the invalid April 28th election. So, not only quote the April 28 election by which he rules declared invalid, he has also lost the platform on which he could stand to argue his case to be allowed to remain in office. Indeed, a case can now be made for striking out Chief Ohakim’s appeal on the ground that he has lost his locus on the basis of which he was entitled to enter the appeal. However, any such move will only serve to prolong the current proceedings and play into the hands of those who wish the proceedings could continue till 2011.

Now that the long awaited September 29,2009 had arrived, nothing should – be done which should have the effect of further prolonging the determination of the key question which Chief Agbaso has been asking to be answered these past thirty months; which is, “Did lNEC have power under the law to cancel the Imo State Governorship elections validly held on April 14, 2007, the results of which had been fully collated in all the twenty-seven LGAs of the state and duly announced in at least twenty-four of the twenty-seven L.G.A. Collation Centres of the state”. If the answer to that question is no, then the results already collated should be assembled and a winner for that election declared.

Madu wrote in from Owerri

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Ahead 2027: Pro-Tinubu Group Sets Up Structures In APC

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The Mandate Movement (TMM), a pro-President Bola Tinubu group in the All Progressives Congress (APC), has set up 37 structures in a bid to enlarge its membership base across the country.
The structures consist of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja.
The national leader of the movement, Cardinal James Odunmbaku, made this known in a statement, explaining that the move became necessary for the ease of administration.
Cardinal Odunmbaku, in the statement, noted that this move was a precursor to the preparations for the 2027 general election.
He stressed that the move aims at ensuring that the APC has strong dominance across communities and towns in every part of the country.
He advised those to be appointed as state coordinators to be more effective in mobilising new people into the ruling APC.
The APC chieftain also used the opportunity to appeal to Nigerians to be patient with the President Bola Tinubu’s administration, assuring that the government was taking steps to address the harsh economic challenges.

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Benue APC Crisis: Court Sacks Acting State Chairman

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The recently suspended Benue State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Austin Agada, has been reinstated by a Makurdi High Court presided over by the Chief Judge of the State, Justice Maurice Ikpambese.
Recall that Mr Agada was earlier in the month suspended from office by another Benue High Court in Aliade presided over by Justice Lilian Tsumba following an ex parte motion filed by Mr Moses Agaba against him and the APC after his Ihaje Ward I Executive in Ogbadibo Local Government Area had passed a no-confidence vote on him and also suspended him for alleged anti-party activity.
The suspension was immediately followed by the inauguration of Mr. Benjamin Omakolo from Igoro Ward, Apa LGA as the acting State Chairman during a State Executive Committee meeting of the party presided over by Governor Hyacinth Alia.
However the crisis in the party took a dramatic turn Monday when Justice Ikpambese reinstated Mr. Agada while ruling on a motion by the embattled chairman seeking to set aside the interim order restraining him from parading himself as  Chairman.
After listening to the arguments of counsel to Moses Agaba, Mr. Johnson Usman, and that of Innocent Daagba, who appeared alongside Richard Ayilla, George Ushongo, Daniel Sorkaa and John Ifer who appeared  for Mr. Agada, Justice Maurice Ikpambese vacated the order restraining him from parading self, function and acting as the Chairman of the APC in the State.
Justice Ikpambese ruled that “under Order 39, rule 3 of the Benue State High Court Procedure Rules, 2023, the lifespan of an interim order is seven days, and since the order was issued on February 2, 2024, it has elapsed by law.”
Justice Ikpambese nullified the appointment of Benjamin Omakolo as acting Chairman and any other appointment made from February 2, 2024.
He accordingly struck out the motion seeking to set aside the interim order of February 2, 2024, as “it has been overtaken by events.”
The matter would be assigned to another Judge by the Chief Judge who would hear it on its merit.
Reacting, the APC State acting Chairman, Mr. Omakolo dismissed the reinstatement of Mr. Agada saying “whether the order restraining him (Agada) from parading himself as the Chairman is vacated or not, the fact that he has been suspended by his Ward still places a ban on him to be able to function as APC Chairman in Benue State. “And it will interest you to know that in the court ruling today, no matter concerning my person or role as the acting Chairman was mentioned.
“So, I still remain the valid acting State chairman of the APC in Benue State. I remain the one who pilots the affairs of the APC in Benue State and the APC family takes instructions and directives from my office as the acting Chairman of APC in the State.
“And even that wrong vacation that was done in the High Court has already been appealed. The person that took him to court has appealed the judgement because it is not correct in law for a High Court to restrain another High Court, a court of coordinate jurisdiction. I have long assumed office as the acting Chairman of APC in Benue State.”

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There’s No Changing Bayelsa Gov’ship Result – Diri

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Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Douye Diri, has said that the November 11, 2023, governorship election in the State has been won and lost and cannot be changed through subterranean moves of his main rival in the poll.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared the incumbent governor winner of the election and presented certificates of return to him and the deputy governor-elect, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, on November 17, 2023.
Diri, who spoke on Monday during the first year memorial service of his late father, Pa Abraham Diri, at the St Peter’s Anglican Church, Sampou, Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area, said the subpoena to the police to testify as witness at the election petition tribunal by the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Chief Timipre Sylva, was diversionary, a waste of time and an exercise in futility.
He said the acceptable standard was the election result declared by INEC and not that of the police.
His words, “they are bringing a police report. They are bringing a police commissioner to come and testify in the election tribunal. We have crossed that bridge long ago. Just as we stopped them from rigging, we will stop them again.
“If you want to subpoena anybody, let it be INEC, which conducted the election and declared the results. The police are in charge of security.
“Let us be steadfast. Our second tenure will be better than the first.”
The governor eulogised his father for laying a solid foundation for him and his siblings.
According to him, his father was being celebrated a year after his death because he left good legacies that were speaking through him and his siblings.
He said: “His impact upon our lives, his children and relatives, is unspeakable. That is why I believe in giving the best education to children, so that whether you are alive or not, they can stand anywhere. I urge fellow Bayelsans to give their children good education.
“What we are doing today is to appreciate God and celebrate the life of our father for what he has done in our lives. Our father guided us very well. All his life was how to discipline and give what he had to society.
“Those of us in leadership as president, governors, Speakers and other positions, let us know that there is a legacy we should leave, which will speak for us when we leave this world.”
Speaking on the topic: “What will you be remembered for?” Rev. Funkuro Amgbare, Bishop of the Diocese of Northern Izon of the Anglican Communion, noted that Pa Diri was being remembered a year after his death because he impacted positively on his children and the society.
He admonished all to live a life worth remembering by maintaining their integrity.

 

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