- Adamawa: Binani wants tribunal to decide petition before ex-REC’s prosecution
The All Progressives Congress governorship candidate in the last election in Adamawa State, Sen. Aishatu Dahiru, on Monday, urged the Federal High Court in Abuja to allow the election petition tribunal sitting in the state to deliver its judgement before the suspended Resident Electoral Commissioner, Hudu Ari, is prosecuted.
Dahiru, also known as Binani, made the plea before Justice Donatus Okorowo, through her counsel, Chiesonu Okpoko, SAN, while adopting the processes filed in respect of her suit.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Binani had, in a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/935/2023, sued the Independent National Electoral Commission, Inspector-General of Police and the Attorney-General of the Federation as 1st to 3rd respondents, respectively.
In the suit, the applicant sought the interpretation of Section 144 of the Electoral Act, 2022 and a preservative order seeking the maintenance of status quo by parties pending the hearing and determination of the suit.
Binani’s counsel, Michael Aondoaka, SAN, in the ex-parte motion earlier filed and granted by the court on July 10, drew the attention of the judge to the fact that a petition was before an Adamawa Election Petition Tribunal and would be dispensed with within 180 days in accordance with the law.
But on the last adjourned date, the court, which did not extend the interim order, fixed today for hearing the originating summons served on the defendants.
Upon resumed hearing, Okpoko, who held the brief of Aondoaka, argued that the star witness to their client, Ari, was being harassed and prevented from giving evidence before the tribunal, which if continued, would jeopardise the case of their client at the tribunal.
The lawyer prayed the court to restrain the respondents from prosecuting Hari pending the determination of Binani’s petition at the tribunal.
He based his argument on the grounds that prosecuting the suspended REC now, while Binani was still challenging INEC’s declaration of Ahmadu Fintiri of the Peoples Democratic Party as Adamawa governor after she had earlier been declared the winner of the governorship poll, might create a likelihood of bias in the decision of the tribunal.
Okpoko further submitted that the applicant was not saying that Ari should not be prosecuted but that INEC and others should wait until the tribunal gave its judgement within the 180 days prescribed by law.
He said the decision of INEC to file the action against any person involved in Binani’s April 15 declaration as winner of the supplementary poll in the state when the tribunal was yet to determine the petition of their client, would deprive her of Section 285(6) of the law which gives 180 days within which the petition filed on May 6 should be dispensed with.
He then urged the court to halt Ari’s prosecution and uphold their argument.
But counsel to INEC, Adebisi Adeniyi, who held brief for Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, disagreed with Okpoko’s submission.
Adeniyi argued that the charge being preferred against the suspended REC was a bailable one that would allow him to give his testimony before the tribunal.
The lawyer said that Binani had not placed anything before the court to show that Ari was listed as a witness in her petition.
Besides, he argued that the applicant had not also shown to the court whether the suspended REC had either been invited, arrested or charged.
The lawyer, who said that the judges that would determine the election petition case were not robots, said they were judges that were properly trained, experienced, and would be guided by law.
According to him, there is no way the prosecution of the suspended REC will affect the plaintiff’s petition.
He submitted that if Ari felt strongly about this argument, he was the rightful person to canvass such an argument before a high court in the state and not Binani.
Adeniyi, who challenged the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter, said the suit ought to have been filed in the state.
But disagreeing with Adeniyi, Okpoko argued that all the respondents in Binani’s suit were Federal Government agencies, hence, the issue of court jurisdiction had no place.
Justice Okorowo adjourned the matter until Oct. 13 for judgement.