Abuja Court Dismisses APC’s Suit, Orders INEC To Resume Collation In Bauchi

Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed a suit filed by the Governor of Bauchi State, Mohammed Abubakar and the All Progressives Congress (APC) challenging the decision by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to resume collation exercise in the state’s gubernatorial election.

INEC had declared the election inconclusive on the grounds that the number of cancelled votes was higher than the margin of lead between the two top political parties.

The electoral body later announced that it would resume collation because it found out that the number of cancelled votes was tampered with, a decision Abubakar and the APC challenged in court.

In a judgment on Monday, Justice Inyang Ekwo declined jurisdiction and disagreed with plaintiffs’ lawyer, Ahmed Raji (SAN) that the suit related to pre-election matters.

Justice Ekwo set aside the order for maintenance of status quo earlier made by the court and ordered INEC to proceed with its activities geared at concluding the governorship election in Bauchi State.

The judge said, although his court has jurisdiction to determine the questions, relating to the interpretation of the Constitution and Electoral Act, raised in the suit, he would prefer to allow election tribunal with an overall jurisdiction over election matters to handle the case.

He directed that INEC should be allowed to conclude its constitutional responsibilities in relation to the Bauchi Governorship election, following which any aggrieved party could approach an election tribunal.

Justice Ekwo said: “My view is that this court has jurisdiction to interpret the provision of the Constitution as to the alleged breach of the plaintiff’s fundamental right to fair hearing and interpret the provision of the Electoral Act tabled before the court.

“And also looking at the provision of Section 60 of Electoral Act, the court or tribunal can determine the issues thereof. It can then be said that there is concurrence of jurisdiction between this court and the Election Petition Tribunal on this issue.

“The difference in this case is that the alleged infringement occurred in the process of an election and the decision of the defendant in Exhibit B (the press releases issued by INEC on March 15, 2019) also occurred in the process of an election.