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Thursday, August 4

Wada, Faleke head to Supreme Court as Appeal Court upholds Gov Bello’s election

Wada, Faleke head to Supreme Court as Appeal Court upholds Gov Bello’s election

The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, on Thursday, declined to sack Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State from office, even as it dismissed two appeals that sought to invalidate his election.

In two separate judgments, a five-man panel of Justices of the appellate court, dismissed appeals that were lodged by the immediate past governor of the state, Capt. Idris Wada ( retd), of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and that of the erstwhile running mate to late ‎Prince Abubakar Audu, Hon. ‎James Faleke.

The Justice Jummai Hannatu-Sankey led panel of the appellate court held that both appeals lacked merit.

Whereas the panel were unanimous in their decision that Faleke’s appeal lacked substance, however, in a dissenting judgment, a member of the panel, Justice Ita George Mbaba, upheld Wada’s appeal, just as he voided the Certificate of Return that was issued to governor Bello by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

Justice Mbaba disagreed with the declaration of Bello as duly elected governor, saying there was no evidence that he participated in all stages of the gubernatorial election that held in Kogi state last year.

He maintained that INEC acted in breach of section 141 of the Electoral Act when it declared Bello who only participated in the December 6, 2015, supplementary poll, as duly elected governor of the state.

Nevertheless, four other members of the panel, while upholding judgment of the Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal that previously affirmed Bello’s election, said they were convinced that Wada’s appeal ought to be dismissed for want of merit.

Justice Mojeed Owoade who read the lead judgment, held that INEC acted properly when it merged all the votes that Audu garnered before his death and the ones Bello got after the supplementary poll, to return candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, as winner of the governorship contest.

Four members of the panel waved Wada’s contention that Bello did not participate in all stages of the election aside, saying the governor partook in all the stages “by virtue of his party participation and accrued interest.”

They held that Wada lacked the locus standi to challenge the process that led to the nomination of Bello as a replacement for Audu who died after the initial election of November 21, since was not a member of the APC or participated in its primary election.

Similarly, the court resolved six issues Faleke raised before it, against him. In a unanimous verdict, the court held that governor Bello was properly nominated by the APC as a substitute for late Audu, in line with the provision of section 33 of the Electoral Act, 2010.

Justice Hanatu-Sankey who read the lead verdict, further faulted the Faleke over his failure to join APC as a party in the matter, an omission the court said was fatal to the appellant’s case. The court stressed that the issue of nomination of candidate for an election is an internal affair of a political party, a duty it said the APC duly discharged.

The appellate court held that Faleke who was nominated as running mate to late Audu after the APC had concluded it governorship primary election, could not claim to be the candidate of the party or deemed to have been elected as Kogi state Governor since he did not participate in the primaries as required by law.

It held that Faleke’s argument that electorates voted for a joint-ticket between him and Audu has no place in law since section 122 of the constitution made it clear that it is a political party that can canvas for votes and be voted for.

It said the votes belonged to the APC and by extension, to the candidate it sponsored for the election, adding that Faleke could not by virtue of sections 181(1) and 179(2) of the constitution, stepped in as the governorship candidate of the APC upon Audu’s death.

However, the appellate court noted that Faleke, who is currently representing Ikeja II Federal Constituency of Lagos State in the House of Representatives, had the locus standi to challenge the outcome of the election having participated in the November 21 poll on a joint ticket with Audu.

Meantime, shortly after the judgment, both Wada and Faleke, while reacting through their respective lawyers, said they would take the case before the Supreme Court.

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