Faleke vows to appeal judgment Let’s bury the hatchet, governor tells his opponents
Tobi Soniyi in Abuja and Yekini Jimoh in Lokoja
The Court of Appeal, Abuja division has upheld the election Mr. Yahaya Bello, as the elected governor of Kogi State on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The appellate court dismissed the appeal filed by Chief James Abiodun Faleke, a member of the House of Representatives who ran alongside the late Abubakar Audu as deputy governorship candidate under the All Progressives Congress (APC) for lacking in merit.
While the judgment of the court in the appeal by Faleke was unanimous, a justice dessented in the judgment on the appeal by the PDP governorship candidate, Wada.
In the lead judgment delivered by Justice Jummai Hanatu-Sankey, the court held that Bello was properly nominated by his party, the APC in compliance with section 33 of the Electoral Act 2010 following the death of Prince Abubakar Audu who was the initial candidate of the party at the poll.
The appellate court held that the issue raised by Faleke in his petition challenging the nomination of Bello as successor to Audu during the supplementary election of December 6, 2015 was an internal affair of the party and which was resolved by the party through the substitution.
Justice Sankey said the petition of Faleke was fallacious and ought not to have been entertained in court in the first instance because of the failure of Faleke to join the APC as a defendant in the matter having been the party that carried out the substitution complained against by Faleke.
The court said the failure of Faleke to join APC in his petition was fatal to his case and that the case could not stand in the face of the law having not joined the party which carried out the substitution.
The appellate court also said that Faleke who was nominated as running mate to Audu after the primary election of the APC for candidate’s nomination had been concluded, could not turn around to claim to be the candidate of the party or deemed to have been elected as Kogi State Governor since he did not participate in the primaries as required by law.
The court further said the claim of Faleke that the people of Kogi State voted for Audu and himself had no place in law because Section 122 of the Constitution stated clearly that it was a political party that could canvas for votes and be voted for, adding that in the instant case, it was APC that was voted for by the people and that it was the candidate sponsored by the party that could claim the votes.
Justice Sankey held that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was right in calling for substitution of the late Audu since doing so was allowed under section 33 of the Electoral Act 2010.
Meanwhile, in another judgment, the court in a majority decision of four justices to one held that former governor of Kogi State, Idris Wada lacked the locus standi to complain against the nomination of Bello as candidate of the APC in a supplementary election of December 2015 on the grounds that he was not a member of the APC and did not participate in the APC primary election.
The court said section 33 of the Electoral Act permitted the APC to make the substitution of Bello following the death of Audu.
But in a dissenting judgment, a member of the panel, Justice Ita George Mbaba, disagreed with the declaration of Bello as the duly elected governor of Kogi State.
He held that INEC violated Section 141 of the Electoral Act in declaring Bello as the elected governor of Kogi State.
Justice Mbaba held that section 141 of the Electoral Act prescribed that no person should be declared a governor unless such a person had participated in all the stages of the election.
In the instant case, Justice Mbaba said apart from participating in the primary election, there was no evidence that Bello participated in all other stages of the election before his purported declaration by INEC as a governor.
He therefore voided the certificate of return issued to Bello by INEC and also set aside the tribunal judgment which declared Bello as Kogi State governor.
In his reaction, Faleke said he had instructed his lawyers to proceed to the Supreme Court to appeal the verdict, describing it as political judgment.
In a statement issued by his Director Media, Hon. Duro Meseko, Faleke stated that he disagreed with the judgment, hence his decision to express his constitutional right by challenging it at the Supreme Court.
According to the statement, “This judgment as you all can see is a political judgment and cannot stand the test of time.
“We strongly condemn the judgment and believe that the Supreme Court that is the custodian of Nigeria constitution and the court of the people would do justice to our case.”
Meanwhile, Governor Bello has appeal to both Wada and Faleke to bury the hatchet in order for the state to move forward.
Bello who made the plea in Lokoja, the state capital while reacting the Court of Appeal judgment said it was time to allow what “Allah has already destined.”
He particularly reminded Faleke to be mindful of the fact that the two of them belong to the same political family, saying late Alhaji Abubakar Audu will not be happy in his grave as the duo rock the boat of the state.
The governor pleaded with Faleke to come forward and join hands with him to take the state to the promised land, adding that he should come up with whatever ideas he has for the state for implementation.
Bello described the court judgment as not only a victory for him, but a victory for Faleke and the APC.