Justice Donatus U. Okorowo of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, Friday, struck out the application filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate in Adamawa State, Senator Aisha Binani Dahiru, seeking to stop prosecution of the suspended Adamawa Resident Electoral Commission, Hudu Yunusa-Ari, at the state’s High court.
Hudu had hurriedly announced Binani winner of the governorship poll without reading out results but the declaration was annulled by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) leadership which eventually returned the incumbent governor, Umar Fintiri.
News Direct reported that the court had previously given an interim order, directing INEC, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Inspector General of Police to maintain “status quo” in its plan to prosecute Hudu.
The interim order followed a motion exparte filed by the APC candidate for the Adamawa governorship election, Senator Binani.
She sought the court’s interpretation of whether INEC can charge or arraign Hudu Yunusa-Ari, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) deployed for the Adamawa State election, when a Tribunal sitting is ongoing on the outcome of the gubernatorial election.
In her motion marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/935/2023, her lawyer, M.K. Aondoakaa (SAN), filed writ of summons seeking interpretation of Section 144 and 149 of Electoral Act 2022.
Section 144 and 149 of the Electoral Act 2022 reads, “The Commission shall consider any recommendation made to it by a tribunal with respect to the prosecution by it of any person for an offence disclosed in any election petition.
“Notwithstanding any other provisions of this Act, any defect or error arising from any actions taken by an official of the Commission in relation to any notice, form or document made or given or other things done by the official in pursuance of the provisions of the Constitution or of this Act, or any rules made thereunder, remain valid, unless otherwise challenged and declared invalid by a competent court of law or tribunal.”
INEC, in a statement issued by its then spokesman, Festus Okoye, had said: “As provided by Section 145(1) of the Electoral Act 2022, an offence committed under the Act shall be triable in a Magistrate Court or a High Court of a State in which the offence is committed, or the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Furthermore, Section 145(2) of the Act provides that a prosecution under the Act shall be undertaken by legal officers of the Commission, or any legal practitioner appointed by it.
“Having reviewed the case file from the Police which established a prima facie case against Barr. Hudu Yunusa Ari, the Commission has filed a six-count charge against him at the Adamawa State High Court sitting in Yola.”
But Binani had urged the court to restrain parties in the interim so that INEC can show cause why Hudu, her star witness at the Adamawa Tribunal, should be prosecuted when the Tribunal sitting was ongoing.
INEC’s lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs had told the court that the application was an academic exercise and aimed at binding a court of coordinate jurisdiction from performing its functions.
But Binani’s lawyer, M.K. Aondoakaa SAN, maintained that the prosecution of the embattled Adamawa REC could jeopardise his case at the Tribunal.
Justice Okorowo subsequently lifted the interim order saying “There is no order of this court extending the lifespan of this order on status quo.
Passing his judgment on the main suit Friday, Okorowo held that it was not permitted under the law that a plaintiff should approach the Federal High Court to stop the proceedings at a court of coordinate jurisdiction.
He added that he lacks power to bind a court of coordinate jurisdiction.
“On the whole, the INEC objection succeeds, this case is struck out,” Okorowo said.
Recall that in another Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, Justice Inyang Ekwo had on April 26 dismissed the application filed by Binani Dahiru, which claimed that the Independent National Electoral Commission cannot nullify the results declared by the State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Hudu Yunusa.
She had withdrawn the matter citing internal party issues.
News Direct reported that Binani had on April 16 accepted the result declared in her favour by Hudu even though he announced her winner without reading out the actual scores for each candidate as enshrined in the Electoral Act 2022.
Yunusa had walked into the collation center after the supplementary election was suspended on Saturday and announced Binani winner drawing widespread criticism.
But INEC National declared the announcement a nullity.