Court tussle over, CPC back on battle field

The Supreme Court, in its judgment of December 16, 2011, swept the carpet off the feet of two Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) senators and eight House of Representatives members from Katsina State. Now, they are back to the political battle field. KAMARUDEEN OGUNDELE, reports.

 Talk of volatile states in the country, Katsina is relatively peaceful. It is not a state you will expect to be in the news for wrong reasons. But an issue is already generating a hot debate in the state. It is the Supreme Court Judgment of December 16, 2011 which has been given different interpretations by claimants to the two Senatorial Districts and eight House of Representatives seats.

The apex court, in a unanimous judgment delivered Justice Walter Onnoghen, struck out an appeal filed by a factional governorship candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Sen. Yakubu Lado and 42 others for lack of jurisdiction.

The appellants had challenged the decision of the Court of Appeal, Abuja that nullified their tickets because the primary election that produced them was not endorsed by the Board of Trustees of the CPC, chaired by Gen. Muhamadu Buhari (Rtd.).

Justice Abdul Kafarati of the Federal High Court, Abuja, had in his February 25, 2011 ruling declared Lado and others as the duly nominated candidates of the CPC, having won the party’s primaries.

With the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, the court held that the election or nomination of party’s candidate cease to be solely an internal affair of the party because any aggrieved member of the party can sue if the party’s guidelines and the Electoral Act are breached.

It was on the strength of the judgment that Abdu Yandoma (Katsina North) and Ahmed Sani Stores (Katsina Central) emerged as Senators on the platform of the CPC having won the April 9, National Assembly elections. Eight others also contested and won seats for the House of Representatives.

But the Court of Appeal, Abuja, on April 20, set aside the judgment. The judgment came three days before the governorship election.

Justice Jimi Bada in the lead judgment said that Lado’s name should not have been sent to the INEC because the primary that produced him was not endorsed by the Board of Trustees of the CPC, chaired by Buhari.

Saying that it is a political party that sponsors candidates, the panel declared former House of Representatives Speaker, Hon. Aminu Masari as the authentic candidate since the primary election that produced him was endorsed by the National Executive Council (NEC) of the party.

Hence, Masari was presented as the governorship candidate of the CPC in the election. 

Masari, a former House of Representatives Speaker, had been nursing governorship ambition of Katsina State even when the late Umaru Yar’Adua was about to complete his terms. Yar’Adua became the president in 2007.

However, the late Matawallen Katsina opted for the incumbent governor, Ibrahim Shehu Shema, who was an official in his administration.

Lado on the other hand was a former Chairman Local Government Council from 1999–2002, a member of the House of Representatives (2003–2007) and an elected Senator in April 2007 for Katsina South as a member of the PDP.

Dissatisfied, Lado’s group went to the Supreme Court to challenge the judgment. But the apex court in its judgment by Justice Onnoghen held that “courts have no jurisdiction to hear and determine the matter in dispute”.

According to him, “the courts cannot still decide as between two or more contending parties which of them is the nominated candidate of a political party; that power still resides in the political parties to exercise”.

The apex court agreed with the Respondent counsel, John Bayeshea (SAN) that only the duly sponsored candidates of the party should occupy the seats. Besides, it held that the Federal High Court which affirmed the nomination of the appellants lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the suit, and should have struck it out because the issues raised are purely domestic affairs of the party.

He held that political parties must duly sponsor a candidate for an election.

Those on the list of the party as candidates are Sadiq Yar’Adua (Central Senatorial District), Hadi Sirika (North Senatorial), Ahmed Kaita (Kankia/Ingawa Fed Constituency) and Salisu Salisco (Kaita/Jibiya).

Others are Sheik Umar Abubakar (Katsina), Salisu Daura (Daura/Maiaduwa/Sandamu), Isa Doro (Mani/Bindawa), Sani Mashi (Mashi/Dutsi), Abbas Machika (Kankara/Faskari/Sabuwa) and Dr. Mansur Funtua (Funtua/Dandume).

In the election proper, Shema trounced Masari. But two influential Senators Ibrahim .M. Ida and Mahmud Kanti Bello both of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) representing Katsina Central and North in Senate lost in the election to CPC.

While members of Lado’s faction who are already enjoying the seats at the National Assembly are still laying claims to the seat, the PDP has positioned itself to cash-in on the internal crisis rocking the CPC in the state. 

The PDP has asked the INEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega to issue Certificate of Return to its candidates in two Senatorial Districts and eight Federal Constituencies in the state.

In a letter by its Acting National Chairman, Abubakar Kawu Baraje, the PDP is contending that the CPC had no candidates for the contentious Katsina North and Central Senatorial Districts.

It is asking the commission to issue the Certificate of Return to its candidates for the eight House of Representatives seats of  Kankia/Ingawa, Kaita/Jibiya, Katsina, Daura/Maiaduwa/Sandamu), Mani/Bindawa, Mashi/Dutsi, Kankara/Faskari/Sabuwa and Funtua/Dandume. Alternatively, the party is asking for an early rerun election.

Mr. Akugbe Jonathan Osayande (Esq.) of I & Solicitors who is representing Senator Ida said it is only the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC that can solve the political impasse.

According to him, the CPC can no longer lay claim to the seat, having presented no candidates for the election. Osayande posited that the lawful candidates the CPC sought to present did not participate in every stage of the election as required by Section 141 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).

The Section states that “for anybody to emerge candidate for a political party for the purpose of an election, he must be the one who the said political party had sponsored”.

Therefore, Osanyande wants the INEC to declare his client winner and the certificate of return already issued to the CPC candidate Stores be withdrawn and issued to him since Stores was not a duly sponsored candidate of the CPC.

In the letter to INEC, Baraje said: “It is an indisputable fact that the names of the 43 Appellants in the above case were never submitted to INEC as candidates of CPC. They became candidates vide a judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja, delivered on the  February 25, 2011 granting the claims of the Plaintiffs, now Appellants which judgment was set aside by the Court of Appeal. Meanwhile, prior to this development, the names of the first set of CPC candidates were dropped before election. Upon the delivery of the Court of Appeal judgment, the CPC forwarded to INEC a list of candidates purporting them to be its authentic candidates and asking INEC to withdraw the Certificates issued to Senator Lado’s group and re-issue same to the new persons.

“INEC wisely, and of course rightly, refused to do their bidding on the ground that they were not parties to the suit before the Court of Appeal and thus cannot expect to benefit therefrom. Their subsequent application for joinder was rejected by the Supreme Court.

“Our understanding of the judgment of the Supreme Court striking out the case of the appellants may be summarized thus: 

•The judgment of the High Court “nominating’ them as candidates ceased to subsist  having been set aside by the Court of Appeal and struck out by the Supreme Court.

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Court tussle over, CPC back on battle field