Governor Idris Wada
Kogi State Governor, Idris Wada, Monday floored his Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) opponent, Abubakar Audu, who is challenging his election as the governor of Kogi State, as the Supreme Court dismissed his appeal and that of his party challenging the judgment of the Court of Appeal which on July 12 had upheld his victory in the December 2011 governorship election.
A full panel of the Supreme Court presided over by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Aloma Muhktar, unanimously held that the appeal had lapsed and the appellants had run out of time in bringing their appeal. The court also held that it lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the appeal.
Counsel to Audu, Charles Edomsomwan (SAN), had earlier prayed the court to allow the appeal, arguing that the appeal was of right and that the court should in displaying justice, exercise its discretion in hearing the appeal.
He further submitted that filing the appeal outside the stipulated time was an error on his part, adding that he thought 21 days were provided for instead of 14 days.
He prayed the court to exercise its discretion in favour of the appellants by hearing the appeal on its merit.
But in a counter affidavit filed by the counsel to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), he opposed Audu’s application for a time extension, submitting that the court did not have the jurisdiction to hear it in the first place as stipulated under Section 285(7) of the 1999 Constitution.
Also, counsel to Wada and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Chris Uche (SAN) and Yusuf Ali (SAN), respectively, also prayed the court to dismiss the appeal for being incompetent.
Ali had argued that the ignorance of the counsel was not grounds for indulgence, adding that the applicant’s counsel had not shown due diligence in prosecuting his case.
The apex court, in a short ruling delivered by Justice Mohammed Mahmud, held that the court had to consider the provision of the Practice Directions 2011 to determine the fate of the applicants, adding that such power to extend time for the appeal of an election matter was not given to the court and hence, the court lacked jurisdiction to do so.
He further held that Section 285(7) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, and Paragraph 1 of the Practice Directions provided for statutes of limitation and must be observed as such.
According to him, the court has no jurisdiction to extend the time for filing an appeal.
He said: “Granting the application will be contrary to the Practice Direction. Even if the application brought by the applicant is competent, the applicant has not shown a cogent reason for filing his application out of time and that is fatal to his application.
“The applicant does not satisfy the criteria to grant such application even it is competent.
“The affidavit of the applicant did not show any good reason why the appeal must be heard; the requirements of the law were not satisfied so the applicant has failed. The application is hereby refused. Consequently there is no appeal before this court. The application has no merit.”
Reacting to the judgment of the court, Wada called it “a victory for democracy. We have always expressed our confidence in the rule of law. And this is another one.
“I must express my gratitude to the good people of Kogi State for believing in us all this while that the legal battle has lasted. This victory is for all lovers of democracy and I call on all our opponents to come and let us build our state together.
“The state is bigger than any one of us and the progress of the state should be of concern to all of us. This victory is simply a tonic for me to strive to put smiles on the faces of our people in Kogi State by realising my transformation agenda.”
After the ruling, the court had asked the counsel to ACN, Dr. Muiz Banire, on the next step he wanted to take on his appeal since it was hinged on the first one that had been dismissed. In response, Banire withdrew the application and the court dismissed it.