By Daniel Njienue, News/Comments. July 31, 2021
As lawyers continue to debate the recent Supreme Court ruling between Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN of the All Progressive Congress and Mr. Jegede, SAN, of the People Democratic Party on the appeal filed by complaining party, asking the apex Court to declare its candidate as the rightful winner of the October 10, 2020 governorship election in Ondo State. The ruling saw four Justices, out of a seven-member panel, agreed upon technicality that the petition filed against Akeredolu’s victory was incompetent, because the Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State was not joined as a party to the case.
However, Justice Emmanuel Agim read the lead majority judgment, largely supported by Justices John Okoro, Lawal Garba and Tijani Abubakar. On the other hand, other three Justices, Mary Peter-Odili, Ejembi Eko and Mohammed Saulawa held contrary minority judgments, relying on Section 183 of the Constitution and Article 17 (4) of the APC constitution. That, Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State acted unconstitutionally by being the Yobe Governor and also serving as APC’s Chairman at the same time, and as such, the nomination/sponsorship letter he duly signed for the APC, informing INEC of the candidature of Akeredolu and Lucky Aiydatiwa as APC governorship and deputy aspirants was void.
On his part, the lead majority judgment read by Justice Agim held that, since Jegede and the PDP made Buni the centre of their allegation of constitutional breaches, he ought to have been made a party in the case to enable him to defend himself in line with the doctrine of fair hearing and went ahead to uphold an earlier judgment of the Court of Appeal, to the effect that the petition filed by Jegede and his party to the election tribunal was incompetent because they failed to include Buni as a party. “The appeal was based on the ground that Mai Mala Buni, the Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee of the party, that is, the second respondent (APC) was holding office as the Governor of Yobe State, contrary to the provision of Section 183 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999). “All the issues raised, revolved around Mala Buni. But, Mala Buni, who is at the centre of the dispute was not made party to the petition. It is obvious that the determination of the said issues will affect him.
“Therefore, the court below was right to have held that he was a necessary party to this suit. Failure to join him renders the determination of the matter impossible. To proceed to do so would have violated the fair trial of the case. “Therefore, we affirm the lower court that the petitioner was incompetent…..
Reacting to the ruling is a Constitutional Lawyer and Human Rights Activist, who is also a stakeholder of APC, Dr. Tunji Abayomi, who in this interview with Afrikanwatch Network yesterday warned the party to either stop the party congress holding today nationwide or face multiple legal actions across the nation, noting however, that, illegality cannot stand with illegality. He also used the medium to congratulate Governor Akeredolu on the narrow escape from the Apex Court. “Let me congratulate Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, for the Supreme Court ruling against the PDP, because he would have become a victim of something he never expected. It was terrible, even those who are in court were thinking virtually he will lose the contest because our party do not have regard for Constitutional importance. They are now attacking Festus Kyamo, SAN, simply because they do not have regard to the rule of law. Very sober and too bad. Continuing, he stated that, the best thing for the party now, is to immediately constitute a new interim Executives, to direct the resignation of Governor Mai Mala Buni and appoint a new interim chairman who will now set a new date for the congress because he (Buni) has to depart from all the decisions taken so far. “By the decision of the Supreme Court and even the court of appeal, any executive act performed by Governor Buni before now is illegal because he cannot stand on the shoulder of illegality. The party cannot also stand on the shoulder of unconstitutionality and expect to see orderliness” The position of Festus Keyamo is not just in conformity with the law, but a possible interpretation of judgment, orderly administration and the security of the people of the party”
Explaining further, Dr. Abayomi, noted, that in essence, the position of Keyamo, is in conformity, sensible interpretation of the decision of the Supreme Court and that of the Court of Appeal and a pathway to securing the future of the party while preventing chaos and disorder which may arise when previous decisions of Buni are challenged in Court.
“So the Congress should be suspended immediately, and a new national Excos under a new chairman should be constituted to direct the affairs of the party, and it must depart in that direction from various decisions taken by Governor Buni. The party cannot stand on the shoulder of unconstitutionality and expect to see orderliness”, he concluded.