Saturday, February 24, 2024

Fintiri wins Adamawa governorship election

  • IGP removes Adamawa CP over supplementary poll

  • Court refuses to hear Binani’s motion over jurisdiction
  • Nigerians hail INEC’s intervention

BY TIMOTHY AGBOR AND BRIGHT JACOB

After two days of drama and suspense, the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party in the Adamawa State governorship election, Umaru Ahmadu Fintiri, has won his reelection bid.

Fintiri garnered 430,869 votes to defeat his closest challenger and candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Aisha Ahmed Binani, who scored 398,788 votes.

The Independent National Electoral Commission had on Sunday suspended collation for the supplementary governorship election in Adamawa after the embattled Resident Electoral Commissioner, Hudu Yunusa Ari announced APC’s Aisha as the winner of the Saturday supplementary election.

Section 25 of the Electoral Act, 2022 empowers only the returning officer to announce the result and declare the winner of an election at the state collation centre in the case of election of a governor of a state.

IGP redeploys Adamawa CP

Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, has ordered that the Commissioner of Police on election duty in Adamawa State, Mohammed Barde, withdraw from the state with immediate effect.

The IGP also ordered that the CP in charge of Gombe State, Etim Equa, should immediately proceed to Adamawa state for election security of the keenly contested supplementary governorship poll.

The Force Public Relations Officer, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, made the revelation while addressing pressmen on Tuesday in Abuja, adding that the IGP was committed to a free and fair electoral process.

Earlier, INEC officials had reconvened at the state collation centre in Yola, the Adamawa State capital.

The officials reconvened amid a heavy presence of security operatives.

INEC Administrative Secretary in the state, Adamu Gujungu, who had been mandated to take the place of the erring Resident Electoral Commissioner, Hudu Yunusa Ari, was seen at the collation centre.

Court refuses to hear Binani’s motion over jurisdiction

Also, a Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday, refused to hear an ex-parte motion filed by the All Progressives Congress candidate in the Adamawa governorship election, Senator Aisha Ahmed, popularly called Binani.

Justice Inyang Ekwo, instead, ordered the APC candidate’s counsel, Mohammed Sheriff, to address the court on the issue of jurisdiction before hearing the substantive motion.

Upon resumed hearing on the matter, Afeez Matomi announced appearance for Governor Ahmadu Fintiri, the third respondent in the suit, shortly after the sheriff mentioned his name.

Justice Ekwo then asked Matomi if he had been served.

The lawyer told the court that though he was yet to be served, he had filed a motion to counter part of Binani’s prayers.

He said he got the hint about the ex-parte motion through social media, hence, he decided to file a motion.

But the judge, who declined to listen to Fintiri’s lawyer, said it was imperative for counsel to go by what the law says.

Ekwo then ordered the Sheriff to proceed on addressing the court.

The lawyer said his ex-parte motion was filed on April 17 and he was ready to move it.

The judge said though he was ready to hear from the Sheriff, the lawyer must address the court on the issue of jurisdiction before he proceeded.

“I am ready too but you have to address me on jurisdiction,” he said.

Justice Ekwo, who ordered the Sheriff to address him on whether the court had the jurisdiction to hear the matter, held that the application would be taken together with the issue of jurisdiction on the next adjourned date.

He, consequently, adjourned the matter until April 26 for hearing of the motion and an address on jurisdiction.

Binani and the APC, in the motion marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/510/2023, had sued the Independent National Electoral Commission, the PDP and its candidate, Governor Fintiri, as 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents respectively.

Binani, through her lawyer, Hussaini Zakariyau, SAN, had sought a judicial review of the administrative decision of INEC on April 16 in respect of her declaration as the winner of the governorship election held on March 18 and the supplementary poll of April 15.

She is also seeking an order of prohibition and certiorari preventing INEC and its agents from taking any further steps towards the declaration of the winner of the elections pending the determination of her application for judicial review.

The application was brought pursuant to Order 34 Rules 1a, Order 3(1) & 3(2) a, b, c, Order 6 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure Rules), 2019 and Section 251 (1)q & r of the 1999 Constitution, as well as Section 149 & 152 of the Electoral Act, 2022.

Giving grounds why the motion should be granted, Binani stated that after the collation of results, INEC declared her as the winner of the elections but the PDP and its candidate, Governor Fintiri, resorted to fighting and causing a public disturbance which led to the beating and manhandling of an INEC staff.

This crisis, she said, led INEC to cancel the initial declaration which it had no power to do as only the election petition tribunal was vested with such powers.

By cancelling her declaration, Binani contended that INEC usurped the powers of the election petition tribunal which was the only court vested with powers on a declaration from the conduct of an election.

In the application, she averred that a judicial review existed to enable the superior court to checkmate the actions and decisions of inferior courts as well as the legislative and administrative arm of government including agencies and public officers.

The applicant further submitted that INEC, being an agency of the government, could have its actions, records, and decisions checked by the court and only a court could nullify the actions of an INEC official and not INEC itself.

Nigerians hail INEC’s intervention

In the same vein, Nigerians on Tuesday were unanimous in hailing the reaction of INEC over the conduct of its Adamawa State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Yunusu Hudu Ari, who illegally declared Aisha Dahiru-Ahmed, as the governor-elect on Sunday.

Civil society organisations and politicians commended the electoral umpire for asking President Muhammadu Buhari and the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba to arrest, interrogate and prosecute Hudu Ari.

They also, in their separate interviews with The Point, asked the Federal Government to arrest all the heads of security agencies that witnessed and aided the illegal action of the REC.

Speaking, Oluwaseyi Adeniyi, a politician and a Senior Special Assistant on Media to Osun State Governor, Ademola Adeleke, while lauding INEC for the step taken, said it will surely deepen and strengthen democracy in Nigeria.

“I sincerely commend the leadership of the Commission for coming up with this kind of step. It’s a way to deepen and strengthen our democracy because if INEC fails to take this step, somebody, in the nearest future can just come up and declare his preferred candidate while collation is still going on. So, the decision to prosecute the REC is commendable.

“Having said that, I think it’s not enough for Ari to be prosecuted alone; he has some accomplices also who should be arrested and probed. The Commissioner of Police on election duty in that state, Mohammed Barde, and the Director of DSS in that state, should also be arrested and queried. They know the law and they were aware that what the REC was doing was an illegality and they allowed themselves to be used. So, I want to call on the President and IGP to also beam their searchlights on the two individuals, that is, the CP and Director of DSS in that state.”

Also reacting, an election observer and board member of Yiaga Africa, Ezenwa Nwagu, said he was not surprised that the Adamawa REC committed such illegality, saying that Ari was one of the RECs that many civil societies accused of questionable character and partisanship before his appointment and other officials were eventually approved by the National Assembly after shunning petitions raised by civil societies.

Nwagu also called on the IGP to arrest heads of security agencies that flanked the REC during the illegal declaration of results.

The civil activist also said that politicians don’t read the Electoral Act and that is why they easily fall for unscrupulous officials of INEC who collect money to carry out acts that are against the dictates of the law.

“We in the civil societies have said it before that some of the nine new Electoral Commissioners have questionable character, partisan background, inexperienced, and of questionable integrity. Incidentally, the suspended Resident Electoral Commissioner in Adamawa who is from Bauchi State is one of the RECs affected. We even petitioned the National Assembly and the National Assembly had told us that our petition didn’t come with an affidavit and they cleared them. We are reaping the consequences of that action of theirs now and it calls into question how even the political parties in the opposition parties abandon issues of reforms to the civil societies and the media.

“INEC had suspended two Electoral Commissioners, one in Sokoto, one in Abia. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. In November 2016 when Prof. Mahmood became the National Chairman of INEC, there were 10 or more people of civil society background who were in INEC and the irreducible minimum for them was to do what was right. But, these ones were appointed, they elbowed out all of those people and brought these people whom we clearly, without doubt, have questionable backgrounds, they are partisan, they lacked experience of managing elections. So, Adamawa is just that self-fulfilling prophecy.

“The heads of security agencies were sitting with a man who was committing a crime and as we speak, no invitation has been extended to them by their superiors in Abuja. Our attitude to elections is terrible; our stakeholders’ relationship is like it’s a bazaar. For many, it’s a money-making venture and unfortunately, it doesn’t exclude the media.

“Our election can’t be better than us as a people. The political class in Nigeria is not interested in deepening democracy, they are only interested in grasping power and the media is not reining them in on that. Until we are all involved in strengthening democracy and deepening its intrinsic values, we will be moving in this circle. Why has no PDP member in the National Assembly raised a motion for the recall of these RECs who have been found wanting? Opposition politics is dead in Nigeria. Many politicians are scammed by unscrupulous INEC officials because they (politicians) don’t read the Electoral Act,” he stated.

Similarly, Osun State Governor, Ademola Adeleke commended the swift intervention of INEC which nullified the illegal declaration of a winner before the conclusion of collation of votes.

“I hail INEC’s intervention. The Commission did well to have acted to save the day. I however call on the Commission to speed up the process of vote’s collation. Any further delay may strengthen the hand of those who want to suppress the will of the people. INEC should fast track the collation and announce the rightful winner. Only that route can salvage the serious challenges facing our democracy. We must join hands to stop erosion of democratic practices and values,” Governor Adeleke said in a statement issued by his spokesperson, Olawale Rasheed.

A political analyst, Kizito Okwara, said that INEC’s damage control measures to address the situation were contrary to what the electoral umpire was known for.

According to him, Mahmood and his State Resident Electoral Commissioners could get away with announcing undeserving winners because they think there won’t be repercussions.

Okwara also berated Binani for not showing some restraint before giving her acceptance speech.

He said, “I wonder why INEC is doing this damage control now. Is the action of Yunusu not what they are known for? Why is INEC now crying more than Nigerians over irregularities in the conduct of an election?

“I mean, look at the way the man went about announcing the election result. He didn’t even care about the feelings of Nigerians. He simply casually announced the hoax of a result because he thought there wouldn’t be repercussions and that his Commission would support him. It can no longer be business as usual for people like this.

“And think of it, was that not the exact thing his boss, Mahmood, did during the collation of the presidential election results? I recollect Melaye (Dino) screaming to the high heavens there about the conduct of the polls….bringing to the Chairman’s notice the widespread violence and inability to transmit results to the BVAS in real time, but the INEC chairman simply waved all the protests aside,” he said.

Continuing, Okwara said, “Yunusu just gave us part two of what Mahmood did. And if this situation is not addressed properly, we are bound to get more shockers in future elections.

“And look at the way Binani flew with the illegality…it simply goes to show how people are desperate for power, and have no shame while at it. Our electoral process needs a total overhaul. It’s almost in a mess right now irrespective of who will be finally declared as Adamawa Governor,” Okwara added.

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