Anxiety is mounting in Sokoto ahead of the Tuesday, March 16, 2010 Court of Appeal judgment in the governorship case between the candidate of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) in the 2007 election, Alhaji Maigari Dingyadi, and the incumbent Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governor, Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko.
This is coming less than three weeks after the Court of Appeal in Sokoto adjourned judgment in the case following two petitions to the National Judicial Council (NJC) which had called into question the integrity of both the Court of Appeal President and the justices of the panel. Judgment in the case was first slated for February 24, before it was put on hold as a result of the petitions from counsels to INEC and Governor Aliyu Wamakko.
It is coming just as many were still wondering what would be the outcome of the petition and when it would be known that information began to spread indicating that the judgment has been fixed for Tuesday.
Curiousity immediately took over the political atmosphere of the state just as apprehension heightened among politicians, especially members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, over the likely outcome of the case.
The news of the fresh judgment day initially came to many as a rumour. As at the time Sunday Trust went to confirm it at the Court of Appeal on Friday, the notice to that effect was yet to be placed on the board. However, counsels to all parties in the suit confirmed that they have received the notice of judgment for March 16, 2010.
But one of the defendant’s counsels, Yahya Mahmood, wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the National Judicial Council, as well as the Supreme Court of Nigeria, questioning the decision of the court to proceed immediately with the case.
The letter, which was also published as a newspaper advertorial on Friday March,12,2010, read, “We have just been notified from the Court of Appeal that judgment has been fixed for March 16th, 2010. We have not been informed that the investigation by the National Judicial Council has been concluded. We are not aware if the investigation has commenced. We have not been told that our petition has been dismissed or denied. We have not been summoned to substantiate it. We have not been told that your order to the Justices through your letter dated 19th February, 2010, stating that further action on the Appeal was put on hold has been reversed. We do not need a better evidence that the court wants to ensure that the outcome of the investigations becomes nugatory, otherwise, we see no reasons for the hurry.”
Mahmood, who said their impression is that the indefinite adjournment of the judgment was to allow for investigations by the National Judicial Council into the ‘serious’ allegations, stated further, “with all respect, after swearing to an affidavit in support of the petition, we expect a full and thorough investigation. If the facts we relied on are not sufficient to substantiate them, we expect to be informed accordingly.”
It was in the same vein that a media aide of Governor Wamakko, Malam Ayuba Ahmed, said they will be surprised if the Court of Appeal goes ahead and give judgment despite pending petitions. “We are aware that during the last sitting, the court said it will await the outcome of the findings and put on hold further action in the case. We are not aware that the panel was done with its investigations.”
But speaking with Sunday Trust on the matter, a counsel to the Democratic Peoples Party, Barrister Suleiman Usman, said normally, once a court is not dissolved following a petition and it goes ahead with the case, that is an indication that the petition has been dismissed.
“They don’t have to call parties to tell them about the result. They know how to deal with such a matter,” he said.
To him, the petitioners are not happy because they are not able to prove their case.
Also, the Sokoto Peace Group wondered, in a statement signed by its Director, Yusuf Dingyadi, why Yahya Mahmood who is counsel to INEC, should write a sponsored advertorial in a national daily.
The group stressed that Mahmood was interfering in what did not concern him since he is supposed to be representing the electoral body, not the PDP.
It also alleged, ”we are aware of his antics. What Yahya Mahmood is doing is an attempt to rubbish the judiciary. The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) should investigate him and call him to order before he tarnishes the image of the judiciary.”
However, as the five-member Appeal Court gets set to hand down its verdict in two days’ time, the concern of many now is the need to sustain peace around the state. They have, thus, challenged the law enforcement agencies to be up to their responsibilities of ensuring the maintenance of law and order.