Why we declared Kogi poll inconclusive, by INEC
• Faleke files suit, Federal High Court rules on Friday
• Lawyers differ on his withdrawal from extra poll
IN renewed defence of its position, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday explained that the Kogi election was declared inconclusive on account of violence in some parts of the state.
This is as Federal High Court, Abuja Division yesterday fixed Friday, December 4 to determine whether or not to stop the INEC from proceeding with the planned supplementary governorship election in Kogi State.
After taking arguments in four separate suits challenging the legality of the scheduled run-off poll, Justice Gabriel Kolawole held that it was incumbent on the court to take a position on the matter “ to enable INEC to conduct the election without a grave shadow of doubt as to the legal or constitutional validity of the said exercise.”
Meanwhile, the deputy governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the November 21st election in Kogi State, James Faleke, yesterday filed a suit at the Federal High Court, Abuja, against INEC over the decision to declare the election inconclusive.
Also, prominent lawyers yesterday expressed divergent opinions about the implication of the decision by Faleke to withdraw from the supplementary election billed to hold on Saturday.
Former director general of the National Institute for Legislative Studies (NIALS), Prof. Epiphany Azinge (SAN) said the implication is that APC would not be validly contesting the election, since according to him, if a running mate withdraws at a time that it becomes impossible to substitute him or her, the election will only hold for political parties that fulfilled the requirements of the law.
Fred Agbaje , another notable lawyer said if it is true that Faleke has withdrawn, it would be politically suicidal.
“In view of the withdrawal, APC as party which can legally field a candidate is at liberty to present a fresh candidate on the grounds of death or withdrawal of its earlier candidates, Faleke didn’t initially field himself. The APC did.”
Yusuf Ali, (SAN) said: “Election is voluntary. He has the right to say he does not want to run again. But we have to look at the law to know if it is possible for somebody to be substituted at this time. If it happens that his candidature cannot be substituted, it means that APC doesn’t have proper candidates for the election.”
To Beluolisa Nwofor (SAN) , Faleke cannot withdraw from the race because his name had already been submitted to INEC as APC running mate to Audu.
Explaining the basis for INEC’s decision, the Kogi Resident Electoral Commissioner Mallam Hussaini Halilu Pai, told a stakeholders meeting that the commission was working within the confines of the law in arriving at the decision because the number of registered voters in the cancelled polling units that election did not hold was more than the margin of win between the leading candidate and the runner-up.
He explained further that 91 polling units across 18 local governments were affected in all, adding that Ogorimagongo, Yagba East and Mopa Moro local government areas were not affected. The REC admonished stakeholders to do everything possible to ensure peaceful conduct during the supplementary polls.
According to him, “It is important to stress here that peaceful elections are necessary to consolidate and deepen the country’s democracy, also it is important to note that free, fair and credible elections do not begin and end with only the procedures of INEC put in place but all stakeholders must be involved.”
He said that a conflict-ridden and violent election would be counter- productive to deepening and consolidating democracy as it would undermine the credibility of the process.
He said the commission needed the collaboration of all stakeholders to ensure that peace reigns before, during and after the process.
“We have to influence those around us towards conducting themselves with civility and decorum which are necessary to ensuring a peaceful and successful conduct of the election. We also wish to partner you in finding solutions to recurring electoral violence.”
He said in preparation for the supplementary election, the commission has participated and organised a series of television and radio programmes to sensitive and mobilise the electorate. Pai indicated that the voters registers to be used in the 91 polling units had been printed, adding that smart card readers would be used for the exercise.
But a human rights group, the Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice (CHRSJ) has urged INEC not to rush to hold the state supplementary governorship election scheduled for Saturday.
Besides, an Abuja-based legal practitioner, Martin Atojoko, has faulted the All Progressives Congress (APC) and INEC for the current uncertainty in the state while the pre-eminent traditional ruler in the state, the Ata Igala HRM Michael Idakwo has cautioned the stakeholders in the Kogi project against tendencies that may plunge the state into anarchy.
Kogi State-born Atojoko told The Guardian yesterday in Abuja that the APC was wrong in choosing Yahaya Bello rather than James Faleke on the grounds of disregard for the principle of “joint ticket.”
According to him, the term joint ticket is a prerequisite for the qualification of a candidate as required by law to contest an election.
The rights group, in a statement by its Executive Chairman, Adeniyi Alimi Sulaiman, also advised parties concerned to allow common sense to prevail in solving the political logjam just as it supported the option of conducting a fresh election with fresh candidates from all the political parties.
The group insisted that President Muhammadu Buhari as Commander-in-Chief and other stakeholders should tread softly in order to allow public interest override personal interest on this matter of national importance.
It, however, stated that the best option for the democratic lacuna
created by Abubakar Audu’s death would be to conduct a fresh election into the Kogi State governor’s position.
The royal father who spoke against the backdrop of violence protest that greeted the replacement of the late candidate gave his admonition at the INEC stakeholders’ meeting.
“As custodians of our tradition who are closer to the grassroots, we are now talking on this affair because it has been a political affair for politicians who are in power. We, along with our people are gripped with apprehension because of the way we are tottering close to a very big cliff.
“It is not good and will not augur well for us. There is no traditional rulers who will wake up and tell his people to go to war. Days of wars are over and things can be settled peacefully. People should be mindful of the fact that anywhere they are they are governed by rules and regulations.
In this matter before us we are subject to three authorities. The first is for us to obey the INEC, the second is the Federal Government and then party rules and regulations. So anybody acting outside these rules is not behaving well, if you take to the street and block the roads shouting all sorts of slogans that does not help matters. This state is young and, power is given by God whether we like it or not .He is the source from which all power comes,’’ the monarch said.
At the hearing, Justice Kolawole consolidated the four suits and asked counsel to parties to formulate three central issues for the court to determine.
Whereas the first suit was lodged before the court by the Kogi state governor, Captain Idris Wada, retd, the second suit was filed by the governorship candidate of the People for Democratic Change, in the state, Hon. Emmanuel Daikwo.
Similarly, while the third suit was filed by a legal practitioner, Mr. Johnson Usman, the fourth suit was filed by two plaintiffs, a member representing Ahiazu Ezinaehitte Mbaise Federal Constituency of Imo state at the National Assembly, Hon. Rafael Igbokwe, and an electorate from Omala LGA in Abelijukolo Ife of Eche ward in Kogi state, Mr. Stephen Wada Omaye.
Although Wada had in his originating summons, prayed the court to declare him winner of the November 21 governorship election, the other plaintiffs but sought the voiding of the election, as well as an order compelling INEC to conduct a fresh poll.
But sequel to the directive of the court, all the plaintiffs, led by Mr. Goddy Uche (SAN), narrowed the three issues for determination to include: “Whether having regard to the provisions of sections 31(1)(2)(4)(5)(6)(7) and (8), 33, 34, 36, 85 and 87 of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, as well as sections 178-181 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, INEC, can lawfully conduct a second/supplementary election into the office of Governor of Kogi state on December 5, 2015, or any other date at all let alone accepting the nomination/substitution by the APC of any candidate on the basis of votes computed and credited to the deceased candidate of the APC when the new or substitute candidate was not part of the original election”.