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Matters arising from Sokoto Election Appeal Court Tribunal

More worrisome is the fact that in spite of its brave efforts at restoring public confidence, the Judiciary faced an enormous challenge of professionally discharging…

More worrisome is the fact that in spite of its brave efforts at restoring public confidence, the Judiciary faced an enormous challenge of professionally discharging its responsibilities on the electoral cases brought before it and few compromising elements on its bench. In quite a number of electoral cases, fingers are pointed at the Judiciary for either frustrating, delaying legal procedures and judgements or passing dubious judgements to either further complicate issues or favour one of the parties involved.

One relevant case that has been undergoing this INEC-Judicial manoeuvring is that DINGYADI VS WAMAKKO.This is but an election petition that is lingering ever since 2007 general election. When will the Judiciary muster professional courage to expressly solve the Sokoto legal puzzle, only time will tell.

The case all commenced with the petition by DPP and its gubernatorial candidate, Muhammadu Maigari Dingyadi, challenging the eligibility of Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko, to contest the April 14, 2007 election on the ground of dual sponsorship by both ANPP and PDP. It was also alleged that the acclaimed deputy governor, Mukhar Shagari, was wrongly nominated and that he did not undertake oath of contest to that political office at the stipulated time.

Surprisingly, both Wamakko and Shagari had screened and cleared by both INEC and relevant agencies prior to the election. It is this kind of unprofessional attitude exhibited by agencies entrusted with these kinds of sensitive duties that is retarding the wheel of progress of our democratisation process.

No wonder, when the case reached the Court of Appeal, Kaduna, it was established that (a) Wamakko’s nomination was faulty and not in accordance with the 2006 Electoral Act (b) Shagari did not comply with the provision of the extant Law requiring him to undertake an oath of contest at an appropriate time (i.e. before and not after the election). Accordingly, the Court ruled, among other things, that: (a) Wamakko was not qualified to contest the gubernatorial election as at April 14, 2007 (b) Fresh election shall be conducted within 90 days (c) the fresh election shall be between the same parties and candidates asappear on Exhibit R8 (d) the Speaker of the State House of Assembly shall be sworn-in as Acting Governor of the state pending the outcome of the fresh election.

The judgement is significant in that it has set aside the initial verdict of the Election Tribunal that unanimously considered the issues raised by petitioners as ‘pre-election matters’. It also established the level of non-compliance of Wamakko and Shagari with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2006. Furthermore, the judgement hit hard at INEC in its leading role of conniving with a particular political party, thereby rendering it biased umpire in electoral matters.

Perhaps the most significance aspect of the judgement was order for the fresh election among parties and candidates as they appeared on Election Results Sheet (Exhibit R8). It’s here that the whole master manoeuvring was concocted to further ensure that Wamakko retain his seat as governor of Sokoto state. Legal experts, particularly Chief Gani Fawehimni and Professor Sagay, were outraged by the double standards adopted by the Court. How could Wamakko be deemed not qualified to contest an election by April 14 and then be qualified to contest same by April 16 (date election result became a legal document)? Hence, no sooner Justice Balkachuwa and colleagues passed the verdict, than public analysts and legal experts began to demand for the interpretation of the judicial pronouncement thereby made.

In line with its policy of connivance with a particular party, INEC hurriedly organised the fresh election in the state on May 24, 2008 without waiting for clearer interpretation of the Kaduna judgement. As planned, Wamakko was returned as governor of the state.

Later, an Election Petition Tribunal was set in respect of the bye election. Dingyadi and DPP raised same issues bordering on illegibility of Wamakko to contest the bye election, having been found ineligible to do so as at April 14, 2007; afterall, the bye election was a continuation of the general election, requiring no further screening by INEC or agencies. Thus, it was argued that since Wamakko was found ineligible to contest the April 2007 general election, he remains permanently disqualified in the bye election, which is legally an extension of the former.

Hence, Dingyadi prayed that he be sworn in as the rightful governor of the state.

On February 18, 2009 the Bye Election Tribunal passed its judgement, divided between Majority and Minority voices. The majority judgement by Honourable Justices A.M. Haliru, B.E. Agbatah, and G.K. Kaigama, dismissed the petition.

Having exhausted the preliminary issues, the minority judgement went further to examine the issue of qualification of Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko to contest the 24th May 2008 election, which is the main issue in contention. Accordingly, by virtue of the Court of Appeal’s decision which led to the re-run election, Aliyu Wamakko of the PDP was not qualified. Their argument is understandable to even a layman since the April 14, 2007 election was annulled due to irregularities in the form of multiple nominations, lack of proper sponsorship and lack of valid running mate with regard to the purported winner of the election, Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko of the PDP. Therefore, a fresh nomination ought to have been made to INEC, if PDP had actually wanted him to be its candidate.

Dissatisfied with the decision in the majority judgement, the petitioner went on Appeal to the Court of Appeal for redress. These are distinct from the decisions handed down by their counterparts in the South…’For sure, this remains the 21st century legal challenge only Nigerian Judiciary can solve to prove to all patriots that our Judiciary is not the only last hope of the common man but the custodian of our democracy.

Aliyu Sahabi Bodinga Public Law Dept Room 312, Faculty of Law Congo Campus Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria  Email: [email protected]

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