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Court Halts Collation Of Bauchi Gov’ship Poll Results

The Federal High Court, Abuja has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to halt the conclusion of the collation of the already declared results of the March 9, 2019, of the Bauchi State governorship election.

Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo, the trial judge, gave the order after an ex-parte application filed by the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the incumbent governor of Bauchi State, Mohamed Abubakar, was moved.

The court, however, said that the restraining order shall last till the determination of the suit brought before it by the two plaintiffs.In the ex-parte motion, the APC and incubent governor of Bauchi State, Mohammed Abubakar prayed the court for an order of interim injunction restraining INEC from resuming, concluding or announcing the result of the Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area of Bauchi State in respect of the election to the office of governor of Bauchi State.

Justice Ekwo had on Monday, while ruling on the ex-parte motion, ordered INEC to appear before him on Tuesday (yesterday) to show cause why the order sought by the two plaintiffs should not be granted.

However, instead of complying with the order of the court, INEC which was represented by Tanimu Inuwa (SAN), approached the court with a motion challenging its jurisdiction.

Counsel to the plaintiffs, Ahmed Raji, SAN, objected to INEC’s application, arguing that the order issued on Monday asking the electoral body to show cause why the requests of the plaintiffs should not be granted had not been obeyed.

Raji told the court that the business before the court was to determine whether the earlier order had been complied with.

He drew the court’s attention to a press statement issued by  Festus Okoye, an INEC national  commissioner and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, dated March 15, 2019, announcing that the electoral body would resume collation of the Bauchi governorship election, adding that except the court grants the interim order, the subject matter of the two plaintiffs would be destroyed.

In his reply, Inuwa admitted that the order had not been complied with and requested to address the court orally on the issue but the request was refused by the judge.

Justice Ekwo held that since the ex-parte application was in writing and duly served on INEC, it behoved on the defendant to appear before the court with a written or formal response.

In his ruling, the judge granted the interim injunction restraining INEC from resuming, concluding and announcing the governorship election result in Bauchi State pending the determination of all issues raised by the plaintiffs in their originating summons.

Justice Ekwo also approved accelerated hearing in the matter and ordered parties to appear before him today  (Wednesday, 20, 2019) to present their positions in the substantive matter.

The plaintiffs, in their originating summons, challenged the decision of INEC to resume collation of results in the election that was earlier declared inconclusive.

They prayed the court to compel the electoral body to go ahead with a rescheduled election slated for March 23 instead of reversing itself on its earlier announcement.

The opposition PDP, has, however, rejected the court order and accused the APC of acting in desperation to derail the democratic process.

PDP, in a statement signed by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the power to collate, suspend collation and/or to reverse such decision based on obvious circumstances as the case in Bauchi was clearly within the purview of INEC.

The statement added that “until collation is completed and results declared, no one can question the constitutional powers of the electoral body, INEC, in that regard.

“The PDP cautions that if this desperate underhand measure by the APC to halt electoral processes is not checked, our hard earned democracy will fail us and our nation thrown into anarchy.

“Our party should not be constrained into a situation in which we will have no option than to allow our members to seek similar exparte orders to halt statutory processes, including the swearing-in of APC candidates at various levels, particularly President Muhammadu Buhari.

“It is clear that collation of results is part of the electoral process and that INEC cannot act on a purported exparte order to jettison its independence and halt the collation of results, which is a key component of its statutory electoral duty.”

The statement referred to Section 87 (10) of the Electoral Act which says that “nothing in this section shall empower the courts to stop the holding of primaries or general election or the processes thereof under this Act pending the determination of a suit.”

The opposition party told INEC to take cognizance of this provision, just as it urged the Judiciary “not to allow the APC to entangle the court in its shenanigans to destroy our hard-earned democracy.

“Nigerians in Bauchi State have elected the PDP and nothing can change this reality,” the party added.

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