In Historic Move, A’Court Reverses Its Judgments, Reinstates Lawmaker

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Davidson Iriekpen

The Court of Appeal in Kaduna has ordered the reinstatement of Hon. Suleiman Aliyu Lere as the member representing Lere Federal Constituency of Kaduna State at the House of Representatives.

In a historic judgment delivered on Friday, the court set aside its earlier decisions in suit number: CA/K/EPT/NA/18/2019 and suit number: CA/K/EPT/NA/19/2019 for being nullities.

In a unanimous decision, the court consequently ordered the enforcement its decisions in CA/K/40/2019, which was affirmed by the Supreme Court in SC/222/2019 and CA/K/EPT/NA/4/2019 which had earlier declared Lere as both the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the winner of the February 23, 2019 House of Representatives election for Lere Federal Constituency.

The court, which had Justices Obietonbara Daniel-Kalio, Saidu Tanko Hussaini and Olutodun Adepope-Okojie, held that the decision of the Election Petition Tribunal cannot stand in the face of the superior courts’ decisions by virtue of Section 287(2) of the 1999 Constitution.

The sub-section states that “the decisions of the Court of Appeal shall be enforced in any part of the federation by all authorities and persons, an by courts with subordinate jurisdiction to that of the Supreme Court.”

Lere through his lawyer,K. O. Oyeniran, had asked the appellate court to set aside its decisions in CA/K/EPT/NA/18/2019 and CA/K/EPT/NA/19/2019 for being nullities.

He urged the court to enforce its decisions in CA/K/40/2019 which was affirmed by the Supreme Court in SC/222/2019) and CA/K/EPT/NA/4/2019. The lawmaker contended that the decisions of the court in CA/K/EPT/NA/18/2019 and CA/K/EPT/NA/19/2019 were only a miscarriage of justice, but an aberration.

He noted that since the decision of the Election Petition Tribunal cannot stand in the face of the Superior Courts’ decisions by virtue of Section 287(2) of the 1999 Constitution, the court should make consequential orders re-instating him as the member representing Lere Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives.

While the court in suit numbers CA/K/40/2019 and CA/K/EPT/NA/4/2019

set aside the judgment of the Kaduna State High Court and ordered INEC to recognise, accept and treat Lere as the candidate of the APC for Lere Federal Constituency, and that by virtue of the Supreme Court judgment in SC/222/2019 Lere participated, won and complied with the provisions of Section 285(13) of the Constitution and was therefore a necessary party to the petition, in a dramatic, in suit number: CA/K/EPT/NA/18/2019 and suit number: CA/K/EPT/NA/19/2019, it affirmed the decision of the National and State Houses of Assembly Tribunal in Kaduna State that Lere was not a candidate at the general election, and that he did not participate and did not satisfy the provisions of Section 285(13) of the Constitution.

The case started when Lere on October 7, 2018 participated in the primary election conducted by the APC for the Lere Federal Constituency in Kaduna State and emerged the winner.

However, the APC submitted the name of one Ahmed Mohammed Munir to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as its candidate for the federal constituency.

Dissatisfied, Lere went to the Kaduna State High Court where he filed a suit to challenge the APC and INEC’s decision.

The state High Court declined jurisdiction on the grounds that the dispute was an internal party affair.

Not satisfied, the lawmaker proceeded to the Court of Appeal which first assumed jurisdiction.

Two days to the 2019 general election, precisely on February 21, 2019, the appellate court in a unanimous judgment, ordered INEC to recognise, accept and treat him as the candidate of the APC for Lere Federal Constituency in the election.

The court added that it was not lawful for the APC to recognise and forward the name of any candidate other than the appellant (Lere) to INEC as its candidate for Lere Federal Constituency. It further held that it was unlawful for the APC to change the result of the primary election in which the appellant emerged winner and was so declared by the party.

It equally restrained the 2nd respondent in the appeal, Ahmed M. Munir, from parading himself as the candidate of the party for the federal constituency in the 2019 general election, and awarded a cost of N500,000 each are awarded against the APC and Munir in favour of the appellant.

At the end of the general election, which held on February 23, 2019, the APC scored 64,442 votes to emerge victorious while PDP came second with 29,709 votes.

Meanwhile, Ahmed Munir and the APC appealed the decision at the Supreme Court.

On May 10, 2019, the apex court in its judgment, upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal that Suleiman Lere was the candidate of the APC. The court concurred with the order of the Court of Appeal asking INEC to recognise, accept Suleiman Lere as the candidate of the APC for Lere Federal Constituency at the 2019 general elections cannot be faulted.

Consequent upon the decision of the Supreme Court, the INEC issued a certificate of return which was hitherto withheld pending the judgment of the Supreme Court dated May 14, 2019 to Suleiman Lere.

While the pre-election dispute was being resolved at the Supreme Court, the PDP and its candidate, Lawal Muhammed Rabi’ufiled, filed a petition before the National and State Houses of Assembly Tribunal in Kaduna, challenging the outcome of the general election.

Surprisingly, in a dramatic twist, both the Tribunal and Court of Appeal later sacked Lere from the House of Representatives, holding that the APC did not field any candidate for Lere Federal Constituency seat.