Adamawa guber poll: Again, Binani drags INEC to court

THE All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in the Adamawa State governorship election, Aisha Dahiru, also known as ‘Binani’, has again dragged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to court for voiding of her declaration as governor-elect.

Binani filed the new lawsuit before an Abuja Federal High Court presided by Donatus Okorowo. The suit was filed through her lawyer, Michael Aondoaka, a Senior Advocate Of Nigeria (SAN).

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), its candidate Governor Ahmadu Fintiri, and INEC were named as the first, second, and third respondents, respectively, in the ex-parte motion numbered FHC/ABJ/CS/935/2023.

Aondoaka moved the motion on Monday, July 10, arguing that the election petition tribunal had the authority to decide Binani’s fate in accordance with Section 149 of the Electoral Act 2022.

Binani also sought a judicial review of the decision by INEC to reverse her earlier announcement as the winner of the election by the then Adamawa State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Hudu Yunusa Ari.

According to Aondoaka, Binani would lose the 180-day window provided by Section 285(6) to file a petition before the tribunal on May 6 due to INEC’s decision.

The senior lawyer noted that the court had earlier ordered Binani to go to a tribunal because her action was an election-related matter, even though a similar case had previously been brought before another Federal High Court presided by Inyang Ekwo.

He requested a review of INEC’s decision to void the declaration as a result.

In order to show the court that the current lawsuit was not frivolous, Andoaka stated that if the court deemed the case to be frivolous, they would be willing to bear any costs.

The ICIR reported that a Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday, April 18, refused to hear an ex-parte motion filed against INEC by Binani.

Binani had asked the court to stop INEC from declaring any other result in the Adamawa governorship poll after the Commission nullified her declaration as winner of the election by the REC, Ari.

When the ex-parte motion came up, the judge, Inyang Ekwo, refused to hear the application and instead ordered the APC candidate’s counsel Mohammed Sheriff, to address the court on the issue of jurisdiction before the substantive motion could be heard.

Afeez Matomi appeared for Fintiri in the suit.

Ekwo asked Matomi if he had been served with the motion, to which the lawyer responded that he had not been served, but had gone ahead to file a motion to counter Binani’s prayers.

Matomi said his client got the hint about the ex-parte motion through social media and decided to file a motion.

Thereafter, Binani’s lawyer, Sheriff, said the ex-parte motion was filed on April 17, adding that he was ready to move it.

However, the judge noted that though he was ready to hear Sheriff, he would only do so once the lawyer addressed the court on the issue of jurisdiction.

Ekwo held that the motion would be taken together with the issue of jurisdiction on the next adjourned date and consequently adjourned the matter until April 26 for a hearing of the motion and an address on jurisdiction.

When the case resumed on April 26, Binani withdrew the matter, saying following her declaration as the governor-elect, “any dissatisfied candidate is to resort to the tribunal for redress if any”.

According to her, the action was filed pursuant to Order 34 Rules 1(a), Section 251 of the 1999 Constitution, sections 149 and 152 of the Electoral Act 2022.

Dahiru and the APC, in the motion ex-parte marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/510/2023, had sued INEC, the PDP and its candidate, Fintiri, as 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents, respectively.

She said that the electoral umpire lacks the requisite power to declare an election in which she was declared winner, null and void.

The senator sought a judicial review of the decision of INEC on April 16 regarding her declaration as the winner of the governorship election held on March 18 and the supplementary poll of April 15.

She also sought an order preventing INEC and its agents from taking any further steps towards the declaration of the winner of the election pending the determination of her application for judicial review.

The application was brought pursuant to Order 34 Rules 1a, Order 3(1) & 3(2) a, b, c, Order 6 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure Rules), 2019 and Section 251 (1)q & r of the 1999 Constitution, as well as Section 149 & 152 of the Electoral Act, 2022.

Stating grounds as to why the motion should be granted, Binani noted that after the collation of results, INEC declared her as the winner of the elections, but the PDP and its candidate resorted to fighting and causing a public disturbance which led to the beating and manhandling of an INEC staff.

The crisis, she said, led INEC to cancel the initial declaration. Binani argued that INEC could not withdraw the declaration as only the election petition tribunal was vested with such powers.

She further maintained that INEC, being an agency of the government, could have its actions, records and decisions checked by the court, and only a court could nullify the actions of an INEC official and not INEC itself.

    She said that the electoral umpire lacks the requisite power to declare an election in which she was declared winner, null and void.

    Although Ari, the suspended REC, did not call out the exact results for each candidate, Binani had previously accepted the result proclaimed in her favour.

    After the supplementary election was called off on April 15, Yunusa entered the collation centre and declared Binani the victor.

    Ari was subsequently disqualified from further participation in the state election after the INEC headquarters in Abuja rejected the exercise and declared the results invalid.

    A reporter with the ICIR
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