Five candidates of opposition parties in Bauchi State who won a court case in Abuja which cleared them to proceed to the National Assembly could not be sworn-in alongside their colleagues during their recent inauguration of the 9th Assembly. Instead, candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who were earlier sacked by the court after they were declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have found their way to the hallowed chambers.
The May 16 Court Order given by an Abuja High Court which directed that Certificates of Return be given to the candidates who came second in the Senate and House of Representatives elections in Bauchi State during the Feb. 23 National Assembly is yet to come to effect amidst outcry by the parties concerned.
The seats affected by the court order included those of the Senate in Bauchi South, and the House of representatives’ seats for Zaki, Alkaleri/Kirfi, Darazo/Ganjuwa and Gamawa Federal Constituencies.
The Bauchi South Senate seat and the four House of Representatives seats were reportedly won by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state during the last National Assembly elections.
However, the High Court presided by Justice Bello Kawu, based on suit No. FCT/HC/CV/988/2019, had on May 16 ordered that certificates of return be issued to the PDP candidate for Bauchi South Senate seat, Garba Dahiru.
Similarly, the court ordered that certificates of return be given to four House of Representatives candidates from opposition parties who came second in the elections.
They are: Abdulkadir Ibrahim, Alkaleri/Kirfi (PDP); Dayyabu Chiroma, Darazo/Ganjuwa (PRP); Awwal Jatau, Zaki (PDP); and Isa Mohammed Wabu, Gamawa Federal Constituency (NNPP).
The opposition candidates were challenging the emergence of APC candidates who were declared winners of the elections. These winners were: Senator Lawan Yahaya Gumau (Bauchi South); Musa Pali, (Alkaleri/Kirfi Federal Constituency); Mansur Manu Soro (Darazo/Ganjuwa Federal Constituency); Tata Umar, (Zaki Federal Constituency); and Garba Mohammed Gololo (Gamawa Federal Constituency).
At a recent press conference held by the opposition candidates in Bauchi, their spokesman, Garba Dahiru flanked by three of the four House of Representatives candidates disclosed that the court judgement and order was received at the INEC Headquarters on May 28, but wondered why INEC did not issue them their certificate of returns as it did for similar cases elsewhere.
“It is on record that INEC has been respecting court orders religiously and very much up to it responsibility as unbiased electoral umpire that has withdrawn over (60) Certificates of Returns based on various court orders and with valid reasons to date,” he stated.
The candidates wondered why despite receiving the court order, INEC has not complied and issued them with their certificates.
Despite widespread optimism that the electoral body will comply with the court order and issue them the certificates before the inauguration of the 9th Assembly, their hope was dashed and instead, it was the APC candidates that had their way.
“We look forward to a quick and speedy dispensation of justice on this matter,” he said.
Because of some similarities with what transpired in Zamfara State where APC candidates who won elections were sacked by the Supreme Courts over issues bothering on primary elections, many people in Bauchi expected that such precedent will be applied in the issue on ground.
In Zamfara, the apex court ruling was based on the suit filed by Senator Kabiru Marafa who argued that the APC did not conduct primary elections in the state.
INEC had also collected the certificate of return of Kawu Sumaila in Kano State and gave it to the son of Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau on the premise that Sumaila did not participate in the primaries held by the APC in Kano.
However, some analysts believed that the case of Bauchi candidates differs from the cases of Zamfara, Kano and other places as they are not members of the APC as such, they have no basis in the court to file a suit concerning the primaries of another party.
In the event INEC finally agrees to issue the certificates, the PDP will have the Senate seat for Bauchi South and the House of Representatives seat for Zaki Federal Constituency because they came second during the elections.
The NNPP that has only the Bauchi constituency seat in the State House of Assembly seat may clinch Gamawa Federal Constituency while the PRP which won the House of Representatives seat of Bauchi Federal Constituency hopes to get the Darazo/Ganjuwa Federal Constituency seat.
As at present, the APC has all the three senate seats of Bauchi South, Bauchi North and Bauchi Central.
Amidst the continued delay, the embattled opposition candidates have vowed to pursue the case further.
Wabu of NNDP said “We are living in a law and order country. We believe INEC obeys all court orders. Why is our case different?
“We are going back to the same court to inform them that the order you gave to INEC has not been respected,” he said.
Daily Trust on Sunday reports the embattled APC candidates affected by the court order were sworn-in during the inauguration of the 9th Assembly despite the fact that their application for stay of execution in another court in Abuja was not granted.
Many believed that INEC did not withdraw their certificates because of some technicalities involved in the case as well as separate orders given to the electoral body by other courts which requires careful examination by lawyers.
Analysts believe that other court orders may jeopardise the chances of PDP in clinching the Senate seat in Bauchi South Senate.
Daily Trust on Sunday reports that this is because, another APC candidate, Barrister Ibrahim Zailani had before the election filed a case against Gumau challenging his emergence as the party’s candidate in the election.
The Court in a ruling FHC/ABJ/CS/1257/2018 ordered that Zailani’s name be forwarded to INEC by the APC as its candidate for Bauchi South Senatorial district in the 2019 election.
Following the court order, Zailani’s lawyers called on INEC to declare him as the winner of the election.
The letter addressed to the Bauchi State INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) was jointly signed by A.S Jibrin Esq, A.S Idris Esq, Ibrahim Jibrin Esq, Ibrahim G. Abubakar Esq and A.U Toro Esq, Lawyers to Barrister Ibrahim Zailani.
The letter also copied to the APC National Chairman and Legal Adviser, Bauchi State Police Commissioner, Director, Department of State Services (DSS), State APC chairman and the Chairman, Bauchi State Council, Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ) stated that, Zailani should be announced as the winner of the election.
The letter stated that the order was given in a judgement by the Federal High Court Abuja Division on the matter delivered by Hon. Justice B.M Nyako that INEC as the 3rd Defendant “should recognise only our client as the party’s candidate in the election.”
According to the lawyers, the APC and INEC were under obligation to recognise and relate with Zailani as the senator-elect for Bauchi South.
“After all, we recall that following a similar pronouncement by the Court, INEC swiftly complied regarding APC’s Candidates in Zamfara State. As such, the issue of Bauchi South should be treated with that kind of dispatch so that the will of the people as expressed in favour of our client will prevail,” they said.
Our correspondent reports that as a result of different pronouncements by courts, INEC was left with no option than to announce APC as the winner of the Bauchi South Senate seat without mentioning the name of either Gumau or Zailani.
Bauchi State INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Ibrahim Abdullahi, while reacting on the issue at the time said no name was mentioned during the declaration of results because of existing court order.
On his part, the state Publicity Secretary of NNPP, Sabiu Zaranda lamented the alleged refusal of INEC to issue certificate of return to their candidate.
“We were very surprised that INEC despite receiving the court order refused to obey. We learnt that the electoral body wanted the case to reach the Supreme Court before they act,” he said.
However, with the inauguration of the 9th Assembly, the hope of the five lawmakers was dashed, at least for now, as all the four APC House of Representatives members and Gumau who had been issued certificates of return have been sworn in alongside representatives from other states.
However, the PDP and other parties are still keeping hope alive that at the end of it all, INEC may have no choice than to obey the court order and give them their mandate.