* Orders INEC to continue collation, announcement of results
By Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday didmissed the suit filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Governor of Bauchi State Mohammed Abubakar challenging the decision of the Independent National Elctoral Commission (INEC) to continue with the collation of results in Bauchi State after the commission suspended the electoral process.
Justice Ekwo, while dismissing the suit, also vacated his earlier order of March 19, which mandated the parties to maintain the status quo pending the hearing and determination of the main suit.
The order was sequel to an exparte motion filed by the APC and Governor Abubakar.
Delivering judgment Monday on INEC’s objection to the suit, Justice Ekwo held that the court has jurisdiction to review the decision of INEC just as the tribunal.
He however stated that since the tribunal has a broader jurisdiction on election matters, it would be better for the plaintiffs to take the case to the tribunal.
Justice Ekwo subsequently upheld the objection of INEC and declined jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
He subsequently vacated his order of status quo issued on March 19, 2019 which prevented INEC from going on with the collation, conclusion and announcement of the results of Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area of Bauchi State.
“The order is hereby vacated and the defendant (INEC) should be allowed to perform its statutory function,” the court held.
Having upheld the objection of INEC, the court held that going into the substantive matter will amount to a waste of the court’s time.
The court had at the last sitting adjourned to Monday, March 25, to decide if INEC could go ahead to collate and announce the governorship election results in Bauchi State.
The judge also held that on that same March 25, he would decide if he has jurisdiction to hear the suit as challenged by INEC.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) and its governorship candidate, incumbent governor of Bauchi State, Abubakar, had asked the court to determine whether INEC having declared the March 9 governorship election in Bauchi inconclusive, could on its own rescind the decision and go ahead to resume collation, conclusion and declaration of any person as winner of the election.
The plaintiffs through their counsel, Ahmed Raji (SAN), prayed the court for an order 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 by its counsel, Tanimu Inuwa (SAN), challenged 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 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 Petition Tribunal and not any regular court including the Federal High Court.
Contrary to the claim of the plaintiffs that INEC cannot continue with the collation of results, the counter affidavit stated that INEC’s decision to continue with the collation of the results was based on the figures contained in the duplicates of the results of the election.
INEC said that although the governorship election in Bauchi State was declared inconclusive, it however rescinded its decision based on facts that emerged later and made a return, adding that any grievance arising from that return should be channelled to the Election Petition Tribunal.
Justice Ekwo had on Tuesday, March 19, 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.