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INEC is free to resume collation in Bauchi guber election, court rules

THE Federal High Court, Abuja, has dismissed the case filed by the Governor of Bauchi State, Mohammed Abubakar, and the state chapter of the All Progressivesives Congress (APC), challenging the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to resume collation in the Bauchi gubernatorial election.

Justice Inyang Ekwo gave the judgement on Monday, saying that the court does not have jurisdiction to entertain the case.

Ekwo explained that issue in dispute was a situation that arose during an election and that the complaint was also made as a result of an election. The election petitions tribunal is the institution empowered by the Electoral Act to hear issues emanating from the conduct of an election.

The gubernatorial election in Bauchi State which held on March 9, was declared inconclusive by the state’s Returning Officer because the number of cancelled votes was higher than the margin of victory between the two leading candidates. The RO subsequently announced that a supplementary election would be held in the state.

But INEC later announced that the actual result of Tafawa Balewa local government area showed that the number of cancelled votes was altered from 2,533 to 25,330. The commission then said that following the revelation, that collation of results would resume for that LGA.

However, Abubakar and the APC rejected the idea. They filed a case in court, arguing that nobody has the authority to overrule the returning officer who has already declared the election inconclusive and called for supplementary polls. But INEC asked the court to strike out the case because it was an election matter and it lacked jurisdiction.

At the last adjourned date, the counsel representing Abubakar and the APC, Ahmed Raji, asked the court not to strike our the case because doing that would mean leaving his clients in the lurch. Raji claimed that the court has jurisdiction to entertain the case because the tribunal can only entertain a case when INEC has returned a candidate elected. And since no return has been made, there was nothing for the tribunal to try.

INEC, on the other hand, argued that Abubakar and the APC ought to have waited for a return to be made before approaching the tribunal.

In his judgement on Monday, Justice Ekwo agreed with INEC that the court lacks jurisdiction on the matter. He, therefore, struck the suit out accordingly.

Justice Ekwo also lifted his earlier order urging all the parties in the suit to maintain status quo pending the determination of the case. This means that INEC could go ahead with the collation of election results for Tafawa Balewa local government area of Bauchi State, which is the only LGA remaining for INEC to announce the winner of the guber election.

As it stands in Bauchi State, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Bala Mohammed, is leading the polls with 475,888 votes, while the incumbent Governor, Abubakar, has a total of 470, 570 votes.

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