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Anxiety As Supreme Court Rules on Kogi Governorship Election Tomorrow

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There are increasing tensions in Kogi State as the people await the verdicts of the Supreme Court on two separate appeals against the return of Yahaya Bello as governor of the state.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its governorship candidate, Mr. Musa Wada, and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and its candidate, Natasha Akpoti, had approached the apex court to upturn the judgements of the Court of Appeal, which affirmed the re-election of Bello. A seven-man panel of the Supreme Court presided by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, on Tuesday adjourned to Monday, August 31, judgements on the two appeals after taking the submissions of lawyers to the parties.

Tensions had been rising in the state since the last week following the announcement that the Supreme Court was set to hear the appeals on August 25.

Lawyers to PDP and Wada, led by Mr Jibrin Okutepa, SAN, in adopting their brief of argument pleaded with the apex court to allow the appeal and grant the reliefs sought by their clients. They claimed that the appellate court erred in arriving at the conclusion that they did not prove allegations of electoral malpractices, which a minority judgement of the tribunal had established and ordered a rerun in seven local government areas where the said malpractices took place. They urged the apex court to affirm the minority judgement of the tribunal delivered by Justice Ohiamai Ovbiagele.

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However, Bello’s lawyer, Mr Joseph Daudu, SAN, and that of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Dr Alex Izinyon, SAN, urged the court to dismiss the appeal for lack of merit. Daudu pleaded with the apex court to uphold the concurrent decisions of the Court of Appeal and the majority judgement of the Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which affirmed the return of Bello as governor.

After taking the arguments of the lawyers representing parties in the appeal, Muhammad announced that judgement in the matter would be delivered on August 31.

In the second appeal filed by SDP and its governorship candidate, Akpoti, the apex court also announced its decision to give final verdict on August 31.

Meanwhile, the appeal filed by the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) and its governorship candidate, Usman Mohammed, was struck out after an oral application for its withdrawal by their lawyer, M. S. Ibrahim. The withdrawal was after some prompting over the eligibility of the DPP candidate, who was said to be 31 years old, instead of the mandatory 35.

The apex court struck out the appeal with a cost of N200, 000 in favour of the first and second respondents.

The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, had in July this year affirmed the election of Bello as governor of Kogi State, after dismissing four appeals filed by the PDP, DPP, SDP, and Action Peoples Party (APP) and their respective governorship candidates for lacking in merit.

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From Banking to Politics…Abiru on the Move Again
The litigations followed last year’s declaration of Bello, who was the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as winner of the November 16, 2019 governorship poll by INEC. The commission announced on November 18, 2019 that Bello won majority of votes cast in the election, polling a total of 406,222 votes, while the runner up, Wada, polled 189,704.

However, the four contestants and their parties disagreed with INEC and approached the Kogi State Election Petition Tribunal to challenge the victory of Bello. Their petitions were all dismissed by the tribunal for lacking in merit. The Court of Appeal upheld the decisions of tribunal.

The appellants approached the apex court to set aside the judgements of the appellate court on the grounds that the Court of Appeal discarded evidence of rigging and violence in seven local government areas of the state.

The Court of Appeal had, in a unanimous judgement, held that the appellants did not prove the allegations of over-voting, multiple thumb-printing, and results falsification. In the ruling delivered by Justice Haruna Tsamani, the appellate court said the appellants merely dumped documents on the tribunal without calling relevant witnesses to link the documents to the allegations.

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According to the judge, a party who alleges over-voting must tender the voter registers for the affected polling units and the results of the polling units, show how, without over-voting, the results would be in his or her favour.

In the other judgements, the Court of Appeal held that the tribunal was right in dismissing the petitions of the DPP and APP over alleged unlawful exclusion and that of the SDP for failure to prove claims of electoral malpractices in the governorship election.

Although the decisions of the Kogi election tribunal were unanimous in the petitions of APP, DPP and SDP, it was divided in that of PDP. While the majority judgement delivered by Justice Kashim Kaigama favoured Bello, the minority judgement delivered by Ovbiagele held that there was evidence of electoral malpractices in seven local government areas. Ovbiagele then upturned Bello’s victory and ordered a rerun in the affected local government areas.

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Alleged N10bn scam: Secondus demands N1bn, retraction from Afegbua

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Following this week’s allegation of financial fraud to the tune of N10 billion made against Prince Uche Secondus, national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP by Kassim Afegbua, the former, Thursday, demanded a retraction of the story and payment of N1 billion in damages from Afegbua.

Secondus through his counsel, Emeka Etiaba, threatened to take legal action against Mr. Afegbua within 48 hours if he fails to meet his demands.

Afegbua had accused Secondus of mismanaging the sum of N10 billion which he claimed accrued to the party from the sales of nomination forms for the 2019 election; a claim punctured by party spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, who noted that the party realized the sum of N4.

6 billion and not N10B billion.

The PDP boss noted that Afegbua, a former Information Commissioner in Edo state had in two national dailies as well as in a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, said that “much of the financial transaction of the PDP under Prince Uche Secondus have been shrouded in mystery.”

Afegbua also accused the Secondus leadership of using the bank account of Morufu Nigeria Limited in the sale of nomination forms in 2019, instead of the party’s account.

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However, Secondus in a letter from Emeka Etiaba Chambers and addressed to Afegbua through his counsel, Kayode Ajulo and Co obtained by Vanguard demanded the sum of N1billion from Afegbua within 48 hours failure to which he will be sued for libel.

Prince Kassim Afegbua
The letter reads in part “The above publication of yours portrays our client in a bad light and gives notice to the whole world that our client is a fraudster who is incapable of holding the exalted office of the national chairman of the PDP.

“The two publications made by you were given prominence on the front pages of the Newspapers you employed for your defamatory actions and the publications were widely circulated and read’.

The letter captured some of the prominent federal political positions Secondus held in the past including chairman, National Insurance Commission; Chairman, National Identity Management Commission; Member, Nigerian Railway Board, stating that he “kept an unblemished reputation.

The letter continued: “Your publications which you know to be false have therefore brought him to odium and has challenged his right standing in the society as a trustworthy character.

“The publications were read worldwide and most especially in all nooks and crannies of Nigeria and this fact has been confirmed by the phone calls that have trailed your publications.

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Take notice that if you fail to retract your said publications, apologize to our client in the said newspapers with the same prominence with which you published the offensive statements and pay the sum N1,000,000,000.00 (One Billion Naira) to him as damages (all within 48 hours from the date hereof), we shall proceed to institute an action to seek redress from a court of competent jurisdiction”.

Meanwhile, when our correspondent contacted Afegbua for his reaction, he had this to say: “When I receive the letter, I will respond to it. I will consult my lawyers. I haven’t received any letter. But I cannot be intimidated or distracted from pursuing accountability in PDP. That will be my initial reaction.”

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We Cannot Suspend Strike Now, JUSUN Tells CJN

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The national officials of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) had told the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad that it would be very difficult for it to call off its ongoing strike now.

JUSUN had visited the CJN in his office on Wednesday ostensibly to give him a feedback on his recent demand on the union to call off the ongoing strike.

The CJN had, at an earlier meeting with JUSUN leaders on April 6, asked the union to call off the strike in view of its adverse effect on the justice system in the country. According to a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant on Media to the CJN, Ahurakah Isah, the JUSUN officials, led by its Deputy National President, Emmanuel Abioye and Jimoh Musa Alonge (Treasurer), explained why the union found it difficult to heed the CJN’s demand to call off the strike.

Abiyoye told the CJN that the state governors must begin to demonstrate some level of seriousness by putting in place some measures precedent to the implementation of financial autonomy for the judiciary in their respective states.

‘’Though there’s financial autonomy for the judiciary already in some states while some are assuring that they would comply, others have to take steps in readiness for compliance,’’ Abioye said. According to Abioye, the union expects each state to start implementing its selfaccounting law to deal with the Internally Generated Revenue in line with Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended; and that states without such law should put it in place.

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Abioye said it is his union’s position that there must be some level of seriousness from all quarters and, as such, the amount standing to the credit of the judiciary from the monthly federal allocation should be deducted directly from the source by the Accountant General of the Federation and remit same to the National Judicial Council (NJC) for onward transmission to heads of courts.

He said for the Federation Consolidated Account also known as Federal Allocation, the budget of each state judiciary submitted to the implementation committee (received) on October 2, 2020 should be implemented by deducting the amount due to the state judiciary directly from source by Accountant General of the Federation AGF) in line with Sections 81(3) and 162(9) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) for the states. “In other words, the AGF should deduct from the monthly Federal Allocation and remit it to NJC for onward transmission of the fund to the Heads of Courts at the State Judiciary.

“Until this is done, there is no going back, the strike would go on.’’ However, the CJN said it has become difficult to fault the idea of the strike since the rights of the union and its members which are clearly defined in the Constitution are being denied, especially at state level. ‘’I can’t fault your reasons for embarking on this protest because the union wants its rights restored in line with the provisions of the Constitution. I commend you for following due process so far to protest against the injustice,’’ the CJN said.

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JUSUN insists allocations must be deducted at source, as govs beg members to call off strike

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The Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) has insisted that each state must implement its self-accounting law in dealing with Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).

In a statement issued by its General Secretary I. M. Adetola, in Kaduna, on Thursday, the Union maintained that states must implement the Fund Management Law in dealing with the state consolidated funds, in accordance with Section 121(3) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended.

This is as governors through the platform of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) on Thursday implored the union to call off its strike, and pledged to implement the financial autonomy for the judiciary.

JUSUN maintained that the monthly federal allocation to the judiciary should be deducted directly from the source by Accountant General of the Federation and remitted to National Judicial Council (NJC) for onward transmission to heads of courts,

“For the Federal Allocation, the Budget of each State Judiciary submitted to the implementation committee (received on Oct.

2, 2020) should be implemented by deducting the amount due to the state judiciary directly from the source by Accountant General of the Federation.

“This is in accordance with Section 81(3), Section 162(9) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic Nigeria (as amended) for the states. The Accountant General of the Federation should be directed accordingly,” he said.

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The union also called for the payment of the arrears from the month of October 2020.

Nigeria reported that JUSUN, on April 6, in efforts to ensure it strike action was effective, shut down all courts across the country by mounting guard at the entrance of the courts to ensure that no one entered the court premises.

The action has crippled court proceedings as well as commercial activities around the court premises.

It would be recalled that a Federal High Court, which sat in Abuja had in January 2014, held that the financial autonomy for the judiciary was a constitutional provision that must be complied with by the executive branch of government.

Also, President Muhammadu Buhari, on May 23 2020, signed into law an Executive Order to grant financial autonomy to the legislature and the judiciary across the 36 states of the federation.

The order mandated the Accountant-General of the Federation to deduct from source amount due to state legislatures and judiciaries from the monthly allocation to each state for states that refuse to grant such autonomy.

Also, the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, made the Executive Order No. 10 of 2020 mandatory, stating that all states of the federation should include the allocations of both the legislature and the judiciary in the first-line charge of their budgets.

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Meanwhile, the state governors through the platform of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) on Thursday, pledged to implement the financial autonomy for the judiciary by May ending at the latest and called on the striking members of the JUSUN to call off their two weeks old strike.

The chairman of the NGF and the Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, gave the assurance while speaking with journalists after meeting with stakeholders from the state judiciary and legislature at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

He said the modalities for the implementation were worked out at the meeting held at the Presidential Villa.

According to him, the meeting, chaired by the Chief of Staff to President Buhari, Ibrahim Gambari was attended by the Solicitor-General of the Federation, the representatives of the judiciary, the representatives of the Conference of Speakers, and House of Representatives.

 

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