Following the removal of Kebbi State governor, Saidu Usman Dakingari, by the Supreme Court, the Speaker of Kebbi State House of Assembly, Aminu Habib Jega, was inaugurated Friday night as acting governor.
The oath of office was administered on Jega around 9:30pm by the Chief Judge of the state, Ibrahim Umar.
The Supreme Court removed Dakingari from office and ordered a fresh election in the state.
The court upturned the judgment of the Court of Appeal which had earlier upheld Dakingari’s election and in its place re-instated the judgment of the Kebbi State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal which nullified the said election and ordered a fresh one.
Dakingari is of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The nullification of his election at the tribunal followed the petition filed by the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and its governorship candidate, Malam Abubakar Abubakar.
The tribunal had nullified Dakingari’s election on the ground that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did not conduct the election in compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010.
Friday, Justice Walter Onnoghen who gave the lead judgment said the Court of Appeal did not give its judgment within the 60 days allowed by the constitution for determining election petition appeals.
Although, the Court of Appeal gave its judgment within the 60 days, the court gave the reason for the judgment about 71 days after the appeal was filed.
Justice Onnoghen said: “When Section 285 (7) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) talks of a decision of a court it means the decision and the reasons for that decision. It follows therefore that a decision without the reasons for same is in law, no decision at all.
“Therefore when Section 285 (7) of the said 1999 Constitution assigned 60 days within which an appeal must be heard and disposed of, it clearly means that both the decision/judgment of the court and the reasons for same must be given by the court concerned within the assigned 60 days or less but not more.”
However, the Supreme Court admitted that when the Court of Appeal sat as the final court, such as in an appeal arising from the decisions of election tribunals in relation to National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly, it could give its judgment and adjourn to a later date for the reasons for the decision.
Even then, the reasons for the decision, the court said must still be given within 6o days.
He said: “It is not in dispute that the judgment of the lower court (Court of Appeal) setting aside the decision of the tribunal delivered on 13th November, 2011 was rendered by the lower court on the 29th day of December, 2011 and that the reasons for the said decision of 29th December, 2011 was given by that court on 23rd day of January, 2012.
“From the above facts, it is clear that between the 13th day of November, 2011 and 23rd day of January, 2012 is about 71 days.”
Having so held, the court did not go into the substance of the petition to wit, whether INEC conducted the elections in compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
The judgment thus visited the error of the Court of Appeal on the governor who was not responsible for the failure of the court to give its judgment and the reason thereof within the days constitutionally allowed for doing so.
Giving the rationale for the judgment, Justice Onnoghen said: “What subsection 8 of Section 285 of the Constitution as amended is saying in relation to the facts of this case is simply that an appeal, where the Court of Appeal is the final court of appeal, such as in appeals relating to National and State Houses of Assembly election petition matters, the Court of Appeal, like the Supreme Court, may adopt the practice of giving its decision but deferring the reasons for the said decision to a later date not exceeding the time constitutionally allotted the court to hear and dispose of the matter.
“The decision and the reasons for the decision both constitute the judgment of the court and must go hand in hand, and must come within the time allotted in the constitution for both to be valid and subsisting.”
He consequently held that the judgment of the court of appeal was a nullity.
Other justices namely Tanko Muhammad, Olufu-nlola Adekeye, Sylvester Ngwuta and Mary Peter-Odili agreed with the judgment.
The PDP said it received the Supreme Court verdict with ‘great shock’ but said its confidence in the judiciary remains unshaken.
In a statement by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Prof Ahmed Alkali, the party said, “though we express shock at the supreme court judgment, our faith in the judiciary remains Unwavering , we are deeply concerned with the trend of judgments some of which breed unnecessary tension and instability.”
He further said: “The National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Abubakar Kawu Baraje, on behalf of the National Working Committee (NWC) and the entire members of the PDP is deeply touched by this temporary setback but calls on all our teeming supporters in Kebbi State to remain calm, law abiding and continue to support the PDP, which remains the most formidable and purposeful political party in Nigeria.”
The party, however, commended the sacked governor for all his efforts in the courts and urged him and his team in the state to be steadfast, courageous, while the party prepares for a re-run election, stating “God willing, we shall win”.
Mr. Sam Karbo, counsel to the CPC candidate, said God had a hand in the verdict. He said the judgment came “in spite of all the challenges and obvious obstacles placed in the way of our petition and appeal. We are human and we did our job well but God always had His own ways of paying people back. We must say we felt we were not treated well at the Court of Appeal”.
Karbo said INEC now has the challenge to make the fresh election a free and fair contest and by so doing set a new standard in Prof. Attahiru Jega’s home state.