By Iorwuese Anaana
These are not the best of times for Senator Sani Abubakar Danladi of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), representing Taraba North Senatorial District in the Senate and Hon. Herman Iorwase Hembe of the All Progressive Congress, (APC) representing Vandeikya/Konshisha Federal Constituency of Benue state in the House of Representatives as the Supreme Court, recently, declared their elections null and void.
The Supreme Court also ordered that both lawmakers should vacate their seats immediately as well as refund all salaries and allowances they have collected during their stay in the National Assembly within 90 days.
The apex Court also ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to immediately withdraw the Certificate of Return it issued to them.
In a five-man panel of Justices, Musa Dattijo Muhammad, Kudirat Ekekere-Ekun, Amina Adamu Augie, and Ejembi Eko, led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, ordered that Danladi should be replaced by Shuaibu Isa Lau as the Senator representing Taraba North and also directed INEC to issue Certificate of Return to Mrs. Dorathy Mato as Hembe’s replacement.
The orders were contained in two separate lead judgements that were delivered by the CJN and Justice Amina Augie.
In the case of Taraba, the court held that Senator Danladi was not genuinely nominated by the PDP, to participate in the senatorial contest, noting that the Appellant, Lau, was wrongfully substituted.
According to Justice Augie: “From the totality of the appeal before this court, all the issues are resolved in favour of the appellant. His substitution at the primary election is null and void since the appellant scored the highest number of votes, the only option is to declare the appellant as winner of the primary election.”
Similarly, the CJN who prepared lead verdict in the second case, held that Mrs. Mato was the winner of the primary election the All Progressives Congress, APC, conducted from December 7th to 20th, 2014, with respect to Vandeikya/Konshisha Federal Constituency of Benue State. The supreme court further held that Mrs. Mato who was the appellant before it, was the winner of the general election of March 28, 2015, regarding the constituency, as candidate of the APC.
“I hereby order the INEC to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Hon. Herman Hembe immediately and issue same to the plaintiff/appellant immediately.
“I also order and direct the Speaker of the House of Representatives or the Clerk of the House (whichever is applicable) to swear-in the plaintiff/appellant, Hon. Mrs. Dorathy Mato as the member representing Vandeikya/Konshisha Federal Constituency of Benue state at the NASS immediately.
“The 1st Respondent (Hembe) is hereby ordered to refund all the salaries/allowances and or emoluments he collected while occupying the seat in the House of Representatives within 90 days of this order to the House of Reps
“Costs of this action is assessed at N200, 000 in favour of the plaintiff/appellant, against the 1st defendant only at the lower court and N500, 000 in this court”, the Supreme court held.
The plaintiff had in her appeal marked SC/733/2016, challenged a judgment the Court of Appeal in Makurdi delivered on July 11, 2016, which upheld Hembe’s election. Cited as 1st to 3rd Respondents in the appeal were Hembe, the APC and INEC.
The Supreme Court said it was satisfied that the Appellant proved that the 1st defendant, Hon. Hembe, was not a member of the APC as at December 10, 2014, when the primary election was held.
“Accordingly, he was not qualified to contest the said primary election as he was still a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
“In view of the above position and the fact that only the plaintiff/appellant and Hon. Hembe were the candidates who contested the primaries for the Vandeikya/Konshisha Federal Constituency seat in the House of Representatives, I enter judgment for the plaintiff/appellant”, the CJN held.
Elsewhere an Abuja division of the Federal High Court upheld the election of the Sokoto state Governor, Aminu Tambuwal while dismissing a suit seeking his removal from office.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole in his ruling, held that the application challenging Governor Tambuwal’s emergence as the Governorship candidate in the December 4, 2014 primary election of the All Progressives Congress in Sokoto State lacked in merit and therefore dismissed the suit.
Sen. Umaru Dahiru had filed an application seeking to remove Tambuwal from office on accounts that the primary election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) that produced Tambuwal for the 2015 governorship election was not validly conducted.
Counsel to Dahiru, Mr Ikoro I. Ikoro, had argued and sought to amend an originating summon filed against the APC, Tambuwal and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) before the April 11, 2015 governorship election.
Dahiru had, in that amendment, prayed the court to remove Tambuwal from office and declare him as the winner of the December 2014 APC Primary Election.
He had also asked the court for an order compelling INEC to withdraw the certificate of return issued to the governor and present it to him on the grounds that he was the lawfully elected candidate of the APC at the primary election.
The senator had equally sought an order nullifying the nomination of Tambuwal by APC for the 2015 governorship election and asked that Tambuwal be replaced by him as the properly nominated APC candidate to INEC for the 2015 governorship election.
Justice Kolawole however ruled that Senator Dahiru was unable to substantiate his claims of irregularities in the primaries. He also noted that it was not in the jurisdiction of the court to nullify the outcome of the primaries or order a fresh one since such powers were vested in the hands of the election petition tribunal.
Justice Kolawale also said that if a fresh primary were to be conducted, it would involve not just APC alone but all the parties that had their primaries then. He said Senator Dahiru’s prayers would have fallen under the jurisdiction of the court if the senator’s suit had been on who won the primaries and not about irregularities in its conduction.
He also noted that had Dahiru proven that he won the primaries, then Governor Tambuwal would have been sacked while he would have been affirmed as the governor.