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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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2023: Court Fines Abiola For Late Filing Of Documents

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The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has awarded a fine against Kola Abiola, the presidential candidate, People’s Redemption Party (PRP), over failure to file his court documents within time.
Justice Fadima Aminu, in a ruling, also fined the PRP over its delay in filing its counter affidavit in opposition to the aggrieved presidential aspirant’s amended originating summons.
Ms Aminu had fixed November 25 for a definite hearing in a suit filed by Patience Ndidi Key, a female presidential aspirant in the June 5 primary election conducted by the party.
The judge, who granted the application filed by Ms Key to amend her originating summons on November 18, ordered all parties to file their processes before the next adjourned date and adjourned to Friday for a definite hearing.
Ms Key had, on June 28, sued PRP, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and Mr Abiola as first, second and third defendants, respectively.
In her earlier originating summons marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1001/2022, Ms Key had challenged the emergence of Mr Abiola as the party’s presidential candidate.
She had prayed the court to nullify the poll that produced Mr Abiola as the PRP’s presidential candidate.
She also prayed for an order setting aside the declaration of Mr Abiola as the winner of the primaries conducted across the country.
Upon resumed hearing in the matter, the plaintiff‘s counsel, Magnus Ihejirika, informed that the matter was adjourned for a definite hearing.
Mr Ihejirika, however, said the defence lawyers were yet to serve on him their counter-affidavits to enable him to respond appropriately.
The lawyer to the first defendant (PRP), Regina Audu, explained that there was network failure on Thursday at the FHC filing office when she tried to file her application.
The lawyer, who said she could only do that on Friday, prayed the court for an adjournment.
Ijeoma Madu, who appeared for Mr Abiola, spoke in the same vein.
But Mr Ihejirlrika described the defence counsel’s act as “a deliberate attempt to stall proceedings in the suit.”
The lawyer, who said the case was filed on June 28, said, “time is of essence in its determination.”
He said by provision of the constitution, the court had only 180 days to dispose of the matter, saying practically now, the court has less than a month to have the case determined
He argued that the defendants were only employing a delay tactic to stall the hearing and determination of the suit.
Mr Ihejirika, who told the court that he comes to the court from Kebbi, said if the court would be inclined to grant the defence application, a cost should be imposed.
He asked for a cost of N200,000.
The defence counsel, who disagreed with him, prayed the court to dismiss the request.
In her ruling, Ms Aminu said an award of cost should not be a punishment but compensation.
The judge, consequently, ordered the PRP (first defendant) and Mr Abiola (third defendant) to pay the sum of N20, 000 each to the plaintiff’s counsel.
She adjourned the matter until December 2 for a definite hearing.

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US Restates Commitment To Free, Credible 2023 Polls In Nigeria

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The United States has reiterated its commitment to free, fair and credible 2023 general elections in Nigeria.
It noted that the elections next year provide a strong opportunity for Nigeria to solidify its place as a democratic leader in Africa.
The United States also charged the press to ensure professionalism and responsibility in the coverage of the polls.
The US Consulate Regional Security Officer, Jim Suor, made the remarks during the closing ceremony of the Lagos edition of the four-city regional election reporting workshops at the weekend.
The workshop is organised by the Embassy of the United States in Nigeria in partnership with West Broadcast and Media Academy (WABMA), and Enugu Liberty Society is aimed at strengthening the media’s understanding and appreciation of its responsibility of reporting accurately on elections and the electoral processes.
He said, “The 2023 elections are a pivotal opportunity for Nigeria – Africa’s most populous country and largest economy – to solidify its place as a democratic leader in Africa.
The United States hopes to see an election that is credible, transparent, peaceful and above all that reflects the will of all of the people of Nigeria.
“Peaceful and credible elections are key components of Nigeria’s democratic development. The upcoming 2023 general election provides a channel for the Nigerian people to shape their future and choose a leader who will govern fairly and transparently and ensure access to basic services for all.”
Suor noted that the media was critical in entrenching a strong democracy, not just in Nigeria and Africa as a whole but everywhere in the world.
He further said, “Press freedom and a professional, responsive, and independent media are critical parts of any democracy. We need responsible members of the media to play a role in policy debates, to help the public understand policies and – when needed – to hold leaders accountable for their decisions.
“Recognising the vital importance of a free press and the Fourth Estate to democracy and good governance, we partnered with the West Africa Broadcast and Media Academy (WABMA) to help the media appreciate the huge responsibility of reporting accurately on elections and the electoral processes.”
The Enugu Liberty Society also partnered in organising the workshop which has held in Ibadan, Port Harcourt and Lagos, and would be moving to Enugu next week.
The United States representative also urged the media not to relent on its doggedness and courage in holding the government to account.
He added, “Before my arrival in Nigeria two years ago, I had read about the courage and sheer doggedness of the Nigerian press in the dark days of military dictatorship. In my time here, I have seen that you are still the voice of the forgotten. You have not lost your thirst for the truth or your willingness to go wherever a story leads you, thereby contributing to transparency, accountability, and good governance in your country.”
The workshop facilitators were drawn from both within and outside Nigeria and they handled different aspects of what is expected of pre, during and post-election reporting expectations from the media.

 

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Duke Laments State Of Affairs In C’River, Roots For PDP Candidate

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Ex-governor of Cross River State, Mr Donald Duke, has said that he feels sorry for the next governor of the state, as he opined that such individual would be faced with an uphill task of reinventing governance in the state.
He stated this at the inauguration of 1,080-member campaign council of the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in Calabar on Saturday.
The former governor, who has been saddled with the task of leading the campaign council, noted  that the essence of good governance had been lost in the state in the last eight years.
According to him, “I never bargained to be governor of the state, but was driven by passion and commitment to positively change the fortune of the state, when I eventually became one.”
He said that where he and his team envisioned the state to be by now was not where it was.
“I am worried about development in the state, a whole generation had been lost.
“We know where the state ought to be by now. The plan was that we would have been governing the state without relying on federal allocation by now. The plans were all laid out.
“Whole paradise had been lost. This is certainly not the best of time to govern Cross River State,” he said.
Duke, however, said he was hopeful that the PDP governorship candidate, Sen. Sandy Onor, has what it takes to restore the lost glory of the state.
He stressed that Onor’s past experiences in government had adequately prepared him for the uphill task of reinventing the state.
“As a former Local Government Chairman, Vice Chairman and at a time Chairman of the Association of Local Government Chairmen of Nigeria (ALGON), in addition to being a former Commissioner for Environment and Agriculture and now a Senator, Sandy has what it takes to right the wrongs.
“I am glad that it is Sandy that will bring back the state that we have lost. I can stake for him because I know who he is,” he stated.
In his remarks, Senator Onor said that the state had lost direction, as everything about the state had been abused and debased.
Earlier in his address, the state party Chairman, Mr Venatius Ikem, called for the support of all party faithful, irrespective of their present status.
Ikem noted that all party members had the responsibility of selling the party’s candidates across the state.

 

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