Of Supreme Court Verdict, Zamfara Scenario And Ensuing Legal Brawl By Kehinde Osasona

Of Supreme Court Verdict, Zamfara Scenario And Ensuing Legal Brawl By Kehinde Osasona

Just last week, a legal brawl occasioned by the Zamfara political imbroglio became the newest topical issue in the country. While this write-up does not seek to delve into the ongoing legal matter associated with it, KEHINDE OSASONA, in this piece seeks to look at the complex nature of the new suit against the backdrop of the Supreme Court verdict that ushered in Governor Muhammad Matawalle in the first place.

Just last week, a legal brawl occasioned by the Zamfara political imbroglio became the newest topical issue in the country. While this write-up does not seek to delve into the ongoing legal matter associated with it, KEHINDE OSASONA, in this piece seeks to look at the complex nature of the new suit against the backdrop of the Supreme Court verdict that ushered in Governor Muhammad Matawalle in the first place.

Supreme Court Verdict

When the Supreme Court in 2019 nullified the elections of all the candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Zamfara State in the 2019 general elections, it specifically cited the ruling party’s inability to conduct valid primaries in the build-up to the elections as a reason, among others.

In the unanimous judgment in May 2019, the five-member panel of judges held that a party that had no valid candidate cannot be said to have emerged as the winner of the general elections.

Although earlier, an Appeal Court, Sokoto Division, on March 25 set aside the judgment delivered by the Zamfara High Court, allowing APC to field candidates in the 2019 Election.

The appeal was filed by Kabiru Marafa, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) and 129 others through his counsel, Mike Ozhekome.

But while delivering the lead judgment, which was adopted by two other justices, Tijjani Abubakar and Jamilu Tukur, Tom Yakubu held that the lower court failed in its duty to properly evaluate the evidence before it.

Yakubu said judges have the legal power to produce judgment and reach decisions with reason, noting that in the instant case, it was not done

The judges agreed that the judgment should serve as a “bitter lesson” for political parties as they ought to follow legitimate guidelines and rules.

The matter later proceeded to the Supreme Court and was decided in favour of the PDP, just as the apex court ruled against the appellant (APC) and ordered a fine of N10 million against it.

“Candidate other than the first appellant with the highest vote stands elected. A cost of N10 million is awarded against the appellant,” the court ruled,” the apex court held.

Thereafter, the Supreme Court ruling then became the albatross of 36 candidates of the APC who contested for gubernatorial, senatorial, House of Representatives and state assembly seats in the State, consequent upon which the runner-ups were declared winners by the electoral body, INEC.

What followed the apex court pronouncement was wild jubilation across the 14 councils of Zamfara State.

While reeling out the election results, the INEC had declared the APC governorship candidate, Muktar Idris as the winner of the March election with 534,541 to defeat Bello Muhammad Matawalle of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who garnered 189,452, while the APC also won all the 24 seats in the State House of Assembly.

Reacting to the verdict, the then PDP candidate, Alhaji Bello Matawalle commended Nigeria’s judiciary for standing up to the truth in the discharge of its responsibilities.

Matawalle who gave the thumbs-up in a statement signed by one of his aides, Mallam Umar Mohammed, added: “The judgment is a testimony that the judiciary has remained fair in the discharge of its responsibilities.

“l wish to congratulate the people of Zamfara State, especially PDP supporters, for remaining peaceful and orderly throughout the time we were seeking redress in the courts.“I want to assure you that we will not fail in this confidence reposed in us and l want to appeal to all people in the state to continue to be law-abiding as we transit into the new government.”

Zamfara logjam

Recall that some confusion arising from clashes between political actors in the All Progressives Congress (APC) shortly before the general elections had led to the pre-primary imbroglio that snowballed into endless crises in the Zamfara State chapter of the party.

While Governor Abdulaziz Yari’s faction claimed they held congresses and produced candidates, Senator Kabiru Marafa’s faction maintains that no primary was held.

The party hierarchy in Abuja also confirmed it when the former chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole admitted that no primaries were held but claimed consensus candidates were adopted within the stipulated time.

Consequently, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced that it would not allow the APC field candidates in Zamfara State. The party, according to INEC, did not hold primaries within the stipulated time.

Much later, two different courts in Zamfara and Abuja gave different judgments thereby conflicting the position of INEC.

While a High Court sitting in Gusau, Zamfara State, ruled that the governing APC conducted primaries in the state and should be allowed to present candidates for the electoral contest, another court in Abuja ruled otherwise.

Meanwhile, the table appears to have turned as the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) recently instituted a legal action against the incumbent Governor Matawalle of APC, formerly a PDP governor and one of the greatest beneficiaries of the APC gaffe back then.

Defection palaver

The newest legal war was due to the recent defection of the Zamfara State Governor Muhammad Matawalle and his Deputy, Bello Mahadi Aliyu Gusau from PDP to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/489/2021 filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja, in the names of Sani Kaura Ahmed and Abubakar Muhammed, both members of PDP in Zamfara State, the PDP is seeking the sack of the duo over what pundits in the political sphere described as political suicide.

The plaintiffs in the matter contend that, given an earlier judgment of the Supreme Court, to the effect that the APC had no candidates in the 2019 governorship election in Zamfara State, has not conducted valid primaries, it would be unlawful for Matawalle and Gusau to retain their offices while defecting from the PDP to the APC and thereby transfer PDP’s victory to the APC.

They want the court to, among other prayers; declare that Matawalle and Gusua must resign from their offices before their defection to allow the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct the fresh election, within three months, for the PDP to replace them.

After listening to the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Kanu Agabi (SAN) moved his ex-parte motion, Justice Inyang Ekwo granted an order of substituted service of the originating processes on the Governor and Deputy Governor.

Legal brawl, twist

In a sudden twist, the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja Monday restrained the Zamfara House of Assembly from impeaching the Deputy Governor of the state, Mahdi Gusau.

The Presiding Judge, Justice Obiora Egwuatu gave the order while ruling on an ex-parte motion with the suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/650/2021 brought by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), through its lawyer, Ogwu Onoja, SAN.

Though Gov. Bello Matawalle of Zamfara recently defected from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC), his deputy, Gusau, did not.

According to information that was scooped by newsmen, the PDP hierarchy reportedly prevailed on the deputy governor to have a rethink and abandon the embattled governor to his fate.

Before the time of filing the suit, the lawmakers in the state had threatened to impeach Gusau over activities they considered to be a threat to the security in the state in which they claimed he was involved.

But at the resumed hearing, after ordering the defendants to maintain the status quo pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice, Justice Egwuatu also stopped the house from impeaching its other members who are still in the opposition party (PDP).

Subsequently, he directed the plaintiff to serve all the defendants in the suit before Friday and then adjourned till July 23 for a hearing of the motion on notice.

The Independent National Electoral Commission, APC, Senate President, Speaker of House of Representatives, Speaker of Zamfara House of Assembly, Governor Matawalle, and Chief Judge of Zamfara are 1st to 7th defendants respectively in the suit.

As a way of clearing the path for the deputy governor, the main opposition party (PDP), a few days ago, gave the go-ahead for the amendment of a suit seeking the removal of Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State on account of his recent defection from the PDP to the APC at the Federal High Court, Abuja last week.

By that decision, Mahdi Gusau who was initially thought to be planning to defect to APC with the governor, from the suit as a defendant would have his name deleted via the amendment.

The lead counsel for the PDP in the matter, Chief Kanu Agabi indicated what to expect when he moved the motion for amendment of the suit after withdrawing two motions for interlocutory injunctions filed on June 22 and 25.

In the motion for amendment of the suit, Agabi withdrew prayers 2 and 4 and urged the court to grant prayers 1 and 3 and the application was not objected to by the defence counsel.

With Gusau removed as a defendant, the remaining defendants in the suit are Matawalle, the APC and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Anchored on a previous judgment of the Supreme Court giving victory to the PDP in the 2019 general elections, the suit sought a declaration that the governor, by his defection to the APC is ineligible to continue to remain in office.

They want the court to, among others, declare that Matawalle must resign from office for the PDP to replace him. After granting the motion, the judge then adjourned the hearing till September 29 for mention.

Share This

COMMENTS

Wordpress (0)
Disqus (0 )