By Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Abuja division of the Federal High Court will on Thursday commence hearing on the objection of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to the order of Justice Inyang Ekwo, which on Tuesday restrained it from going ahead with the collating, concluding and announcing the governorship election results of Bauchi State.
Justice Ekwo had on Tuesday stopped INEC from taking further action in matters relating to the governorship election conducted in Bauchi on March 9, 2019.
In a counter affidavit by INEC deposed to by one Hassan Adamu, a Higher Executive Officer in its legal department, the electoral body insisted that the Federal High Court has no jurisdiction to dabble into a post-election litigation.
The counter affidavit specifically stated that the matter of post election is exclusively for the Election Petitions Tribunal and not any regular court including the Federal High Court.
Contrary to the claim of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the incumbent Governor of Bauchi State, Mohammed Abubakar, that INEC cannot continue with collation of results, the counter affidavit stated that INEC’s premise to continue with the collation of the results was made based on the figures contained in the duplicates of the results of the election.
The electoral body further stated that the decision of the Returning Officer in respect of declaration of scores and return of candidate is the exclusive reserve of an Election Petitions Tribunal.
INEC said that although the governorship election in Bauchi State was declared inconclusive, it however rescinded its decison based on the facts that emerged later and made a return, adding that any grievance arising from that return rest with the Election Petitions Tribunal.
At the resumed hearing Wednesday, counsel to APC and Governor Abubakar, Ahmed Raji (SAN), told Justice Ekwo that the counter affidavit and notice of objection to the suit of his client have just been served on him and that he needed a short adjournment to respond to the counter and the notice of objection.
Justice Ekwo, in his bench ruling fixed Thursday, March 21, 2019, for hearing of all issues relating to the Bauchi governorship tussle.
Justice Ekwo had on Tuesday halted INEC from proceeding with the collation, conclusion and announcement of the result of the governorship election in Bauchi State held on March 9, 2019 by the electoral body.
The order was issued after the court listened to submissions of counsel to both the plaintiffs and defendant in the matter.
In the exparte motion, the APC and Abubakar had prayed the court for an order of interim injunction restraining INEC from resuming, concluding or announcing the result of the Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area of Bauchi State in respect of the election to the office of Governor of Bauchi State.
The judge, in a bench ruling, granted the interim injunction restraining INEC from resuming, concluding and announcing the governorship election result in Bauchi State pending the determination of all issues raised by the plaintiffs in their originating summons.
Justice Ekwo also granted accelerated hearing in the matter and ordered parties to appear before him on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, to present their positions in the substantive matter.