By Wahab Akanji, Abuja
The Supreme Court has dismissed the appeal filled by Sokoto State Governor, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal seeking to stop a court action challenging the propriety of his nomination as the APC candidate for the 2015 Sokoto governorship election.
Senator Umaru Dahiru and Aliyu Sanyinna had challenged the conduct of the primary election that produced Tambuwal as candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on the ground that it was fraught with fraud.
The appellants were governorship aspirants on the APC platform in the 2015 general election and had joined the APC, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The appellants claimed that the primary election of APC conducted in December 4, 2014 in Sokoto was fraudulent because the original list of the delegates for the primary election was swapped in favour of Tambuwal by some external forces.
The appellants prayed the Federal High Court to declare that the primary election held in 2014 which produced Tambuwal as unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void and inconsistent with the Electoral Act, 2010 and the APC guidelines.
They claimed that the list of accredited delegates was swapped at the election venue and that votes were arbitrarily, unlawfully and fraudulently allocated to the aspirants after series of manipulations, intimidations and threat from INEC officials.
The Apex Court held that the nomination of Tambuwal by his party could be challenged by another governorship aspirant if the aspirant had sufficient justifiable cause.
In a unanimous decision of a five man panel of the Supreme Court Justices, the apex court held that to agree with Tambuwal that the primary election that produced him could not be challenged by another governorship aspirant “is tantamount to murdering democracy’’.
In the lead judgment by Justice Musa Mohammed and read by Justice Chima Nweze, the apex court set aside the decision of the court of appeal that the legal action instituted by Senator Dahiru against Tambuwal had been overtaken by events on the strength of the April 11, 2015 election of the governor.
The Supreme Court said that the Appeal Court erred in law by holding that event had overtaken the case of the appellant simply because the governorship election had been conducted after the primary election of APC that produced Tambuwal and which was being challenged in court.
The Apex Court therefore ordered that a Federal High Court in Abuja to retry the case on its merit and make decision as demanded by law.
By this development, the Federal High Court in Abuja is now to determine the matter against Tambuwal on its merit and accelerated as ordered by the Supreme Court.
In their brief of arguments filed by Prof. Awa Kalu (SAN), the two appellants pleaded with the apex court to reverse the decision of the Court of Appeal which held that their suit had become academic exercise by virtue of the election of Tambuwal.
In the brief of argument adopted by Mr Ikoro M. Ikoro, the two appellants insisted that the lower court (Appeal Court) erred in law by holding that their joint suit had no life to sustain it simply because of the conducted general election.
They argued that the April 11, 2015 general election could not take life out of their case or render it academic exercise because the suit had been filed on Jan. 27, 2015 long before the general election was conducted.
The appellants claimed that from the beginning of the suit, several frivolous motions and applications filed by the respondents at the federal high court in Abuja had delayed judgment delivery until after the general election.
Their counsel argued that since all the delay tactics were at the instance of the respondents, the respondents should not be allowed to be beneficiaries of the unjust delays which made expeditious hearing practically impossible.
They asked the apex court to invoke Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act to resolve the issue to a finality as the said section of the law empowered it to act as a court of first instance in the circumstances of the case.
But counsel to Tambuwal Mr Sunday Ameh (SAN) stood his ground that the reliefs sought by the appellants at the Federal High Court had been overtaken by the general election and that Tambuwal had been declared winner of the April 11, 2015 election.
The counsel urged the court to dismiss the appeal on the ground that it had become pure academic issue without any life.
In his own argument, Mr Jibrin Okutepa (SAN), who stood for APC aligned himself with the third respondent’s submission.