Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja
The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have faulted the former Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, and the Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, over what they labelled as the wrongful issuance of the certificate of return by INEC to Hon. Abdulsalam Mubarak representing Bali/Gassol Federal Constituency of Taraba State.
An insider in a seemingly legal struggle, told THISDAY that in a letter with reference number: SGF/PS/PGC/200/TII dated July 14, 2020, addressed to the speaker and INEC Chairman, the Office of AGF had requested the reinstatement and swearing-in of Hon. Garba Hamman Julde as a member of House of Representatives representing the constituency having been duly sponsored and elected.
In a letter dated August 24, 2020 and signed by the Acting National Secretary of the APC, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, the party also supported the position of the AGF, insisting that Julde was rightfully sponsored by the party and won the election.
Malami and APC have expressed concerns that months after they drew the attention of the speaker and INEC to the illegality of their offices, no action has been taken to ratify their actions.
Giving a background to the case, the AGF said Julde contested the House of Representatives for Bali/Gassol Federal Constituency of Taraba State, his name having been duly submitted to INEC by his party, APC, as the party’s candidate for the election in INEC form EC. 25 (iv) dated November 30, 2018.
According to the letter, one Gambo Mubarak was said to have later filed a suit in 2018 at the Federal High Court Jalingo contesting the purported primary election and the decision of the National Working Committee of APC.
For a reason not known to the aggrieved parties, the trial court in its judgment ordered that Mubarak’s name be submitted to contest the election. The case went to Court of Appeal and subsequently to the Supreme Court, and the apex court was said to have set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal in favour of Mubarak on the ground that it was delivered out of time and restored the judgment of the Federal High Court.
‘’The Supreme Court judgment was delivered on the 3rd of June, 2019 at a time that the 2019 National Assembly Election had been concluded.
“It is observed that the judgement of the Supreme Court did not indicate that the certificate of return issued to Hon. Garba Hamman Julde is nullified and should be withdrawn.
‘’Similarly, the judgement did not also indicate that Abdulsalam Mubarak be issued with a certificate of return in place of the earlier one issued to Hon. Garba Hamman Julde,’’ Malami stated.
The AGF added that the petition before him shows that INEC has issued another certificate of return to Mubarak, protesting that INEC’s decision has no basis in the judgement of the Supreme Court, delivered on June 3, 2019 – as no such order was made to that effect.
Malami added: ‘’It is for a good reason that the Supreme Court did not give such an order because at the time the Supreme Court heard the Appeal and delivered its judgement, the 2019 National Assembly Election had been concluded without the participation of Abdulsalam Mubarak.
‘’Suffice it to say that the position of the Supreme Court in not giving such specific order is in accord with the provision of Section 285 (13) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and Section 141 of the Electoral Act 2010.’’
The minister explained that Section 285 (13) of the Constitution provides that ‘’an election tribunal or court shall not declare any person a winner at an election in which such a person has not fully participated in all stages of the election further submitted that Section 141 of the Electoral Act 2010 states that ‘’an election tribunal or court shall not under any circumstance declare any person a winner of an election in which such a person has not fully participated in all the stages of the said election.”
Wondering what informed INEC and the speaker’s decisions, Malami said it is not in dispute that Mubarak did not participate in 2019 National Assembly Election and in the post-election petition that followed the declaration of Julde as the winner.
‘’Thus, the subsequent issuance of a certificate of return to Abdulsalam Mubarak by INEC in an election that he never participates in is patently wrong and ultra-vires the commission.
‘’In the circumstance, two letters were written on my directives by the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary dated 24th, February 2020 and 1st June 2020 were respectively addressed to the chairman of the commission. However, the commission did not respond to any of the two letters’’, the minister stated.
In a similar letter to the Speaker, which he referred to the National Assembly Legal Department, an Assistant Director (Legal Services), Charles Yoila, agreed with the AGF, asking the speaker to reinstate Julde.
In a letter dated August 24, 2020, and signed by the Acting National Secretary of APC, Akpanudoedehe, the party also supported the position of the minister.