THE People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has dragged Justice Inyang Ekwo of the federal high court, Abuja, before the National Judicial Council (NJC) alleging that he violated the constitution as well as the Electoral Act, by ordering the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to suspend the scheduled resumption of collation exercise in the Bauchi State gubernatorial election.
The Governor of Bauchi State, Mohammed Abubakar, and his political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), had gone to court to challenge INEC’s decision to resume collation in an election that had been declared inconclusive and a date being awaited for the conduct of a supplementary poll.
They argued that since the returning officer had declared the election inconclusive, INEC lacked the powers to resume collation over the same election.
The PDP wants the NJC to sanction Justice Ekwo for daring to entertain a post-election matter which his court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain.
According to an affidavit sworn to by Uche Secondus, PDP’s National Chairman, the party notes that “issues of collation of results and declaration of the winner, is a post-election event and, therefore, falls under the Electoral Act and Constitutional provisions for the election petition tribunal.
“Despite this clear provision of the law, Justice Ekwo decided to hear the application of Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar and his political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), within twenty four hours on 19th March, 2019 and issued an order on INEC not to continue with the election until the case before him is finally decided,” the PDP petition read.
The party maintains that “the collation of results is a post-election event and under section 87(11) of the Electoral Act” and that “no court has the power or jurisdiction to stop any election pending the determination of a suit”.
The PDP also stressed that since the Chief Justice of Nigeria has constituted the various Election Petition Tribunals in Nigeria to handle post-election matters, “the assumption of jurisdiction by Justice Inyang Ekwo is an affront to the constitution”.
Therefore, the PDP urged the NJC to “save Nigeria’s democracy by taking an urgent step against the violations by Justice Inyang Ekwo”.
What really happened
Abubakar and the APC had filed an ex parte application before Justice Inyang on Monday, March 18, through their lawyer, Ahmed Raji, asking that INEC be barred from resuming collation in Bauchi State after the gubernatorial election had been declared inconclusive.
But the judge refused to grant the order ex parte and asked that INEC should be put on notice and that the commission should come to court on Tuesday to show cause why the application being sought by the applicant should not be granted.
When the case came up on Tuesday, INEC, who was represented by Tanimu Inuwa, instead of explaining why the court should not grant the reliefs sought by the applicants, filed a motion challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain a post-election matter.
However, Raji objected to the motion, saying that that was not the business of the day. Raji argued that since the INEC was in court to show cause as to why the prayers of the plaintiffs should not be granted, the commission ought to file its response first before filing a different application.
In his ruling, Justice Ekwo agreed with Raji and ruled that all parties in the case should maintain status quo pending the determination of the case. He then adjourned the matter till Wednesday, March 20, for all the parties in the matter to state their positions.
It was this ruling that was erroneously reported in the media as Justice Ekwo granting an ex parte order barring INEC from going ahead with the Bauchi election collation process.
During Wednesday’s hearing, the judge expressed his displeasure at the misleading reports, urging journalists in the court to always seek clarification where necessary rather than reporting falsehoods.
“Court documents are public documents,” he said, “and anyone who approaches this court to seel clarification would definitely be obliged.”
Nevertheless, Wednesday’s hearing did not last for up to 15 minutes before it was adjourned again till 2 pm on Thursday, March 21. This was to enable the counsel to the APC, Raji, to study and file a response to a preliminary objection, as well as a counter affidavit, which he said was served on right there in the courtroom by the INEC counsel, Inuwa.