Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court Abuja will on Monday, March 25, decide if the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can go ahead to collate and announce the governorship election results in Bauchi State.
Justice Ekwo fixed the date on Thursday, after counsel to parties in the suit adopted their final brief of argument in the matter.
The judge also held that on that same March 25, he would decide if he had jurisdiction to hear the suit as challenged by INEC.
The suit filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, incumbent governor of Bauchi State, Mohammed Abubakar, is asking the court to determine whether INEC having declared the March 9 governorship election in Bauchi inconclusive, can on its own rescind the decison and go ahead to resume collation, conclude and declare any person as winner of the election.
The plaintiffs through their counsel, Ahmed Raji SAN, are praying for an order of the court prohibiting INEC from resuming collation of result for an election that has been officially declared inconclusive by a returning officer.
But INEC in an objection is challenging the powers of the court to dabble into a post election matter.
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 had no jurisdiction to dabble into a post-election litigation.
The counter affidavit specifically stated that the matter of post election was exclusively for the Election Petition Tribunal and not any regular court including the Federal High Court.
Contrary to the claim of the plaintiffs that INEC cannot continue with collation of results, the counter affidavit stated that, INEC’s decison to continue with the collation of the results was based on the figures contained in the duplicates of the results of the election.
The electoral body further stated that review of the decision of the returning officer in respect of declaration of scores and return of winner was the exclusive reserve of an Election Petition Tribunal.
INEC said that although the governorship election in Bauchi State was declared inconclusive, it however rescinded its decison based on facts that emerged later and made a return, adding that any grievance arising from that return should be channeled to the Election Petition Tribunal.
Recall that Justice Ekwo had on Tuesday ordered that INEC should not take further steps in respect of collating, concluding and announcing anyone as winner of the governorship election in Bauchi State pending the hearing and determination of the suit.
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.