NBA To Defend Parties In Kogi Quagmire – Alegeh


The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) yesterday said it will defend parties in court over the political logjam created in the nation’s jurisprudence by the death of the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate (APC), Prince Abubakar Audu, in the Kogi State election.
The body also said it would leave no stone unturned until the Supreme Court makes an unambiguous pronouncement on the matter.
This, according to the lawyers’ umbrella body, would set the benchmark for future elections in the country especially when a candidate dies when electioneering was ongoing.
The NBA President, Mr. Augustine Alegeh, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria in a media chat said the association would offer legal representation to all parties in the matter with a view to pursuing the matter to the nation’s highest court.
He spoke against the backdrop of the dust being raised on the constitutional crisis Audu’s death had created.
Audu, who was leading by 41,000 votes ahead of Governor Idris Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), died on November 22.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared the governorship election held in the state on November 21 inconclusive, declaring that a supplementary election would be conducted in 91 units on December 5.
Already, Audu’s running mate in the November 21 election in the state, Hon. James Faleke, had approached a Federal High Court, Abuja, asking the court to declare him as the governor-elect.
Also, he queried his party’s adoption of Yahaya Bello as the governorship candidate of the party in tomorrow’s supplementary election.
Specifically, Faleke asked INEC to remove his name as the running mate to Bello in the Saturday’s supplementary election.
Alegeh said the NBA would produce lawyers for both the plaintiff and the respondent with a view to taking a valid constitutional position one way or the other as amicus curae.
He said: “There is a provision for what happens if someone dies before voting commences. In which case, the election can be countermanded and rescheduled for another date and the party is allowed to produce another candidate. There are also provisions for what happens after the elections or voting before swearing-in. Then you have what is called vested rights before the election results are declared.
“You have a candidate and a running mate. It is a whole world of difference after that. After results are declared, you have vested rights because you then have a governor-elect and a deputy governor-elect. If you look at the provisions, when there is a deputy and governor-elect, he takes over. When you are not a deputy governorship candidate, the party is allowed to bring a fresh candidate, that is, before voting starts. But there is no determination of what happens when voting starts. I have no doubt in my mind that the matter will end up in court for determination.
“For the NBA, it will produce lawyers for both the plaintiff and the respondent to start to take a position one way or the other in a matter that you are not a party.
“If you are interpreting the law, we can go ahead and say, this is what the law provides and stand by the provisions of the law. This is what judicial authorities have said and we feel we should respect judicial precedence. But in this case, there is neither a statutory provision nor judicial precedence.
“So, we cannot have an opinion. All we can say is that we have identified the problem and there is a lacuna in the law and going forward, INEC needs to make a decision. So, INEC, being in this situation needs to make a decision and after that decision is made, if the parties accept that decision, they can go by it. If they don’t accept that decision, they can go to court.
“INEC is an umpire and not a party at the election, so INEC cannot go to court. Even, the Attorney-General of the Federation is also not a party at the election. So, only the parties that can go to court and parties can only go to court when there is a decision taken.
“INEC’s decision could be that since Audu has died, the votes for Audu have died and if the APC has no candidate, consequent that the same PDP be declared the winner, I can go to court against that because if I am in APC, that is a decision that directly affects me. These are the scenario; these are some of the decisions that INEC can take. If INEC says let us continue with the supplementary election as has happened, then PDP may decide to go to court to say it is not going to accept that. If Audu has died, there is no provision in the law for APC to bring another candidate. So, for INEC to say to go forward, we are going to Supreme Court, then, let the court decides.
“If INEC says since Audu has died, we are going to have a fresh election, PDP may say no. So, those are the people who have vested interests. It is when they go to court, that the court in its own wisdom will invite the AGF, Alhaji Abubakar Malami (SAN), as an amicus curae to come and offer suggestions.”