Presidency 2015: Suit against Jonathan begins June 21

Following the inability of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to amicably resolve issues surrounding the eligibility of President Goodluck Jonathan to seek re-election in 2015, an Abuja High Court, yesterday, fixed June 21 to begin hearing on the matter.

Justice Mudashiru Onyangi okayed full-blown hearing on the case after he was informed, yesterday, that the planned out-of-court settlement of the case failed. …(read more)

Edo PDP youths attempt takeover of councils

The police in Edo State, yesterday, averted what could have been a bloody clash between supporters of Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN and those of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Edo Central senatorial district of the state, following attempts by PDP youths, to take over the five local government councils in the district.

The action of the PDP members, it was learnt, was sequel to the judgment of the state high court in Ekpoma, which declared the existence of caretaker committee chairmen in the 18 local government areas of the state as illegal. Edo Central is the domain of the former chairman Board of Trustees of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih.

The tension in the state heightened when the youths stormed the council headquarters in Irrua, Ekpoma, Uromi and Ubiaja, saying they were on a mission to enforce the court order by taking over the councils, after they accused the state government of alleged refusal to obey the court judgment.

Meanwhile, the state Director of Publicity of the PDP, Okharedia Ihimekpen, insisted that their action was legal, claiming that “the court judgment said that caretaker committees are illegal. The judgment was submitted to the police and the State Security Service, SSS. Governor Adams Oshiomhole applied for stay of execution but it has not been granted. So we decided to take over as directed by the court.”

But Attorney General of the state and Commissioner for Justice, Dr Osagie Obayuwana, described the action of the PDP youths as the worst form of anarchy, saying: “We will surely prosecute those arrested because what they did was criminal.”

Court Dismisses Suit to Stop Jonathan from Re-instating Salami

Suspended President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami, Wednesday came close to getting President Goodluck Jonathan to lift his suspension as a Federal High Court in Abuja, dismissed a suit filed by one Noah Ajare, who sought an order of the court to stop Jonathan from acting on the recommendations of the National Judicial Council (NJC) recalling Salami.

The plaintiff, a lawyer, sued the NJC and the Judicial Reform Committee (JRC).

In the suit, he sought a declaration that all the meetings, discussions and recommendations for the reinstatement of Salami by the NJC must be put on hold as it was illegal, unconstitutional, null and void.

He also said the suit Salami filed challenging his suspension was still pending in court and that taking any step to reinstate him would further undermine the rule of law.

In dismissing the suit however, Justice Abdul Kafarati, said the plaintiff lacked the locus standi to institute the action and that the issues involving the suspension and reinstatement of Salami could be resolved without his presence.
Moreover, he said the JRC was not a creation of the law, as such it could not be sued.

The court held that being a member of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) did not confer locus standi on the plaintiff.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN), had said Jonathan could not consider NJC’s recommendation asking him to recall Salami because of pending cases. …(read more)

CPC faction inaugurates caretaker panel

The Tony Momoh-led National Executive Committee of the Congress For Progressives Change (CPC) yesterday requested for protection by officers from the FCT Police Command, as the Senator Rufai Hanga-led faction inaugurated its national caretaker committee in Abuja.

Meanwhile, the party’s National Secretary, Alhaji Buba Galadima has threatened that there would be a showdown if some members bent on removing him from office come to the CPC secretariat in Abuja.

The developments came as the CPC legislators in the Kaduna State House of Assembly urged President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration to restore peace and security in the country.

The caucus of the CPC in the Assembly, at a press conference in Kaduna yesterday, urged President Jonathan to do everything possible to restore peace. The Minority Leader and leader of the opposition in the House, Dr Shehu Usman Adamu Danfulani, urged the Federal Government to combat the phenomenon of corruption and insecurity that is destroying the country.

The CPC was last week thrown into more crisis following  announcement of suspension of members of the Tony Momoh-led National Executive Committee (NEC)  by the CPC committee of chairmen. …(read more)

Ondo: Court sacks lawmaker for dumping party

A member of the House of Representatives from Akure North/Akure South Federal constituency, Ifedayo,  Sunday Abegunde, yesterday lost his seat on the order of a Federal High Court for dumping the Labour Party (LP) platform that produced him as a federal legislator for the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) “without following laid-down procedure”.

The court also directed the leadership of the House of Representatives to declare the constituency seat vacant but was, however, silent on whether the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should conduct a bye-election for Abegunde’s replacement.

The lawmaker who has signified his intention to fly the flag of his new party in the forthcoming gubernatorial election in Ondo State, was ordered out of the lower chamber of the National Assembly by the Akure Federal High Court after the conclusion of a suit he incidentally filed to prevent the LP from going ahead with the threat of recalling him from the House.

Abegunde had approached the court seeking protection from the process of recall and hinged his defection from the party on what he called “a leadership crisis that had deteriorated to a level that is no longer manageable.”

The legislator had served in the House of Representatives between 2003 and 2007 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but after failing to get a second term ticket in 2007, defected to the LP where he got the same seat after winning the election of April last year on the bill of the party.

In the originating summons filed on his behalf by his counsel, Kola Adewoye, Abegunde asked the court to decide  “whether or not in view of the provision of Section 68 (1) (g) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and the imbroglio, division, crisis, factionalisation, centrifugal tendencies, hurly- burly and the brouhaha bedeviling the LP in Ondo State, he is not entitled to dump the party for another.”

He also sought a declaration of the court that by virtue of the provision of the stated section of the constitution, he “is entitled to dump the LP for another party and as such, is on terra firma to have dumped the LP for the ACN.”

Abegunde also sought a perpetual order of injunction restraining the defendants, in this case the Ondo State House of Assembly and the leadership of the Ondo LP, “from taking any step whatsoever without or however described about, concerning or pertaining to the defection of the plaintiff as honourable member of the Federal House of Representatives for Akure North/South Federal Constituency from the LP to the ACN.”

But in a counter-claim filed by the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Eyitayo Jegede SAN, he argued that Abegunde “has automatically vacated his seat as a member of the House of Representatives having defected to another political party and having left the LP which sponsored his election to the House.”

In her judgment, Justice Gloria Okeke said that without a political party, no candidate could contest an election since there was no provision for independent candidacy in Nigerian elections.

Ogun electoral body faults CNPP on planned council polls

Ahead of the July 21, 2012 council election in the state, the Ogun State Independent Electoral Commission (OGSIEC) yesterday cautioned the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) in the state to desist from misleading the people concerning the polls.

The CNPP, last week issued a statement threatening legal action against the OGSIEC over an allegation that the Commission was disobeying a court judgment, which forbids it from issuing any electoral guidelines for the council poll in the state.

The CNPP claimed that the said judgment, filed at the state High Court in Abeokuta by the Late legal icon, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, had “in a clear and unambiguous term stated that, “OGSIEC, the state House of Assembly, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice have no power to issue guidelines or make laws for the conduct of local government election.” Besides, they alleged: “The Commission’s flagrant disobedience of court order is a recipe for imminent avoidable political crisis that is looming in our peace loving state.”

But a statement by the OGSIEC Chairperson, Alhaji Risikat Iyabode Ogunfemi, in Abeokuta explained that,
“to organise an election, guidelines have to be issued in line with the 1999 Constitutions and the Electoral Act, 2004, to guide the conduct of such elections.”

“The Commission said copies of the 2012 Ogun State Local Government Election guidelines were issued and distributed to political parties in the state at the recent public workshops in the three senatorial districts in accordance with the 1999 Constitution.”

Ogunfemi assured that, “OGSIEC is prepared and determined to organise, undertake and supervise a hitch-free, peaceful, credible and fair election on Saturday 21 July, 2012 and will not succumb to any distractions from any individual or groups.”

According to Ogunfemi: “The CNPP as well as the Inter-Parties Advisory, as others like them, are association and at best fiduciary bodies which have not been accorded the status of a direct political stakeholder even by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).”

:Guardian

INEC seeks review of Electoral Act, power to use e-voting

Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega has pledged to work with the National Assembly in its forthcoming constitution review process to enhance genuine, free fair and credible elections in 2015.

To this end, the commission is planning a special retreat with the legislators where it will unfold areas that require amendment in the 2010 Electoral Act.

The INEC openly sought an amendment to the contentious Section 31 of the 2010 Electoral Act, which, Jega said, robbed INEC of its role of monitoring the conduct of party primaries and contradicted another Section in the Act, which, he noted, virtually all the political parties abused during the last general elections in the conduct of their internal primaries.

Jega, while receiving the Senate Committee on INEC led by Andy Uba in his office yesterday, decried what he called drastic slash in the commission’s budget for 2012, noting that the action was capable of undermining its efforts as it prepared for the 2015 general elections.

According to Jega, what was appropriated for INEC this year was 60 per cent of its requirements, especially in the area of capital projects for the year.

Jega, who spoke extensively on the various aspects of the electoral process, especially since the coming of the present leadership under him, however, commended the lawmakers for responding promptly to the requirements of INEC to conduct free, fair and credible elections.

When the INEC boss was asked whether it would be feasible to vote electronically in 2015, Jega said the issue could not be determined at the moment, giving the current ban placed on the use of e-voting in the country. He suggested an amendment to the law that would give INEC the power to test run the system, and use it on a gradual basis until such a time that it becomes effective in the country.

His words: “The world over, everybody is going digital along the line and Nigeria cannot be left behind, but given the current ban that is placed on e-voting in the country, I think what the country requires at the moment is to amend the law that would empower INEC to begin gradual use of the equipment culminating into what will be perfection.”

However, he said even though it might not be legal to think of e-voting in the country at the moment, the features such as contactless chip on the new voters’ card soon to be distributed to Nigeria are such that would be electronically compatible when the system is allowed, Nigerians would not find it difficult.

Jega assured the lawmakers that before the end of the year, the first tranche of the 40 million permanent voter cards the contract of which was recently awarded by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) would be available for distribution, while the contract for the second phase would be advertised.

The INEC boss admitted, however that Nigeria had not reached the level of perfection, in which there will be general acceptability of the outcome of elections, saying the reasons might not be unconnected with the fact that a lot of things have been bad for so long in the country and that Nigerians were anxious to have a totally reformed electoral process, which takes time to materialize.

:Guardian

Anambra moves to hold council polls

Anambra State government yesterday announced commencement of processes towards conduct of local council elections.

Acting Chairman of the Anambra State Independent Electoral Commission (ANSIEC), Sylvester Okonkwo, who made the announcement on behalf of Governor Peter Obi, said the processes include printing of sensitive and non-sensitive materials such as the ballot papers and the result sheets.

He described the job as very cumbersome, which has taken the Commission about eight weeks so far. According to Okonkwo, about 20,000 copies of sensitisation materials required in educating electorate and citizens on the dos and don’ts of the election were almost ready.

Also, voters’ registers for nine out of the 21 councils have already been printed, while the remaining ones are in the works at the state office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The acting chairman disclosed that the materials were being printed locally through direct labour.

Okonkwo, who briefed journalists in his office yesterday, expressed happiness that a tribunal to try electoral offenders has been established, warning trouble shooters to stay clear of the electoral process in the state or have themselves to blame.

The ANSIEC chief, who admitted that his Commission is now being funded by the state government, unlike before, declined to give date of the election or details of the timetable.

It was learnt that the commissioners, as well as advisers of Governor Obi have been sacked after Monday’s valedictory state executive council meeting at the Government House Awka.

Obi was reported to have, at the weekend at a gala-nite held at the Governor’s Lodge, commended the aides for their services and wished them well in their future endeavours.

 

:Guardian

PDP Weighs the Jonathan Option for 2015

Ahead of the 2015 presidential race, the Peoples Democratic Party has started weighing the options before it should the party field President Goodluck Jonathan, rumoured to be nursing a second term ambition despite his denial, or any other person.

It was gathered that the assessment is informed by the need to present a candidate who will not only be generally acceptable to party members nationwide, but whose candidacy would not trigger an intra-party crisis that could cost the party the presidential election. 

Party sources said PDP cannot afford to leave the presidential race to chance in 2015, given moves by the opposition, led by the Action Congress of Nigeria, Congress for Progressive Change and the All Nigeria Peoples Party, to rally opposition parties to team up to present a common candidate to face the PDP standard bearer.

The party, therefore, has started to evaluate the pros and cons of a Jonathan candidacy, should he decide to contest again.

According to a party source, “The consideration of the odds, obstacles, pitfalls and strengths of a possible Jonathan candidacy will make the party adopt strategies that would beef up his image and chances in places where the acceptance of his candidacy might be considered weak.

It will then execute measures to improve his acceptability in places where his support base is weak.

“What the party is doing is to weigh the odds as well as his chances zone-by-zone, the positions of the governors of the party and their possible political inclinations by the 2015 presidential primary election.”

Giving an interim zone-by-zone assessment of the situation, the source said, “In the south-south, the political scenario playing itself out is that there is the possibility of the chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, contesting the presidential election as a running mate to either former Vice President Atiku Abubakar or any other person from the north.

We have seen the signs and the party is watching the emerging game.”

He said the party was uncertain of the political future of Akwa Ibom State governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio, despite his promise to quit politics after his tenure.

“It is not known whether his utterances that he plans to quit partisan politics could be taken seriously or not, but only time will tell. So the zone – south-south – could be said to be neither here nor there, but his home state is solidly behind him,” he added.

The party is said not to be too bothered about the south-west, which is controlled by the ACN as the source said, “It is completely ruled out as a source of strength, at least for now.”

It was gathered that the likely position on a Jonathan candidacy in 2015 in the south-east was unclear because of the threat by the Igbo to contest the 2015 presidential election. However, it is not clear which of the four PDP governors from the zone would be able to rally support for Jonathan since all of them are completing their eight-year terms in office by 2015.

The party’s major worry, however, is the core north where some of the governors, particularly from the north-west, are suspected to have an eye on the presidency.  

At the last meeting of the Northern State Governors’ Forum in Kaduna, the chairman and Niger State governor, Dr. Babangida Mu’azu Aliyu, had said northern governors would strive to reclaim the presidency for the zone in the next election. …

(read more)

Edo Youths Move against Oshiomhole

The umbrella Youth organisation in Edo State, Edo Youth Vanguard (EYV) has concluded plans to embark on one-million man match in Benin-City, the state capital, in the next two weeks should the state Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, refuse to reinstate the democratically elected local government chairmen he dissolved before the expiration of their tenure.
Rising from its monthly meeting in Benin-City, the National Coordinator of the body, Mr. Mathew Idemudia, said the match had become inevitable following the governor’s continuous violation of the constitution by retaining the caretaker committees which the court last week ruled were illegal.

The statement added that Oshiomhole’s intransigence among other inciting political statements coupled with several calls for violence had made the political landscape of state volatile and ripe for confusion, stating that security agencies should not allow the trend to continue especially as the date for the governorship elections draws nearer.

The group allegedly cautioned Oshiomhole over the use of provocative and inflammatory statements, urging him not to turn the state into another theatre of bloodshed.

The statement also revealed that arrangements had been completed to seek clearance from the relevant security agencies for the one-million-man-match, adding that the youths were ready to take their destinies in their hands.

On the judgment of a Benin High Court reinstating the sacked local council chairmen, the group stated that the judgment was a victory for the rule of law and democracy and called on Oshiomhole to obey the court order by reinstating the chairmen accordingly.

The statement stressed that the removal of the local government chairmen was a ruse, reckless, manifestly in bad faith, unlawful and illegal as well as a pungent anti-thesis of the 1999 Constitution.

 

:ThisDay

Lack of internal democracy is challenge to INEC, says Jega

Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega has identified the absence of internal democracy among the political parties as a major challenge of the commission.

Jega spoke yesterday in Abuja at this year’s Democracy Day National Symposium held at the State House.

The theme of the symposium is: Our Democracy: Progress and Challenges. A former Secretary General of Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, was the chairman of the event. 

Jega accused political parties of abusing the provisions of Section 31(1) of the Electoral Act 2010, which gives the final power to the parties on which candidates to choose for elections.

He said INEC is working to expunge an amendment to the section.

Jega noted that the section “has been abused by political parties, viz …provided that the commission shall not reject or disqualify candidate(s) for any reason whatsoever”.

According to him, INEC has made progress in conducting free, fair and credible elections, citing the 2011 polls as a yardstick.

He identified the prosecution of electoral offences as another key area that should be perused with the creation of a Special Electoral Offences Tribunal.

Jega said over 870,000 multiple registration cases were recorded during last year’s elections, adding that INEC has prosecuted only 200 of them.

The academic noted that it is difficult conducting a flawless election in Nigeria because of its size and ethno-religious challenges.

The INEC chairman said last year’s polls were conducted under difficult circumstances with the commission grappling with sundry challenges.  

Despite the challenges the commission faced, Jega said it successfully concluded the polls with the support it received from the National Assembly.

He also expressed delight at the approval granted by the Federal Executive Council for the establishment of a Special Electoral Offences Tribunal, which he noted will be able to deal with impunity by electoral offenders.

While assuring that INEC was more determined to improve on the electoral process with a view to conducting more credible and transparent election in 2015, Prof Jega called on the legislature to fast track legal framework for the Tribunal to take-off.

Prof Jega said “things have been so far for so long”, he however regretted that Nigerians were in a hurry to get things right, saying that all must be committed to improve the electoral process. …(read more)

Supreme Court to hear appeals by ACN candidates in Akwa-Ibom,Benue tomorrow

The Supreme Court will tomorrow hear the appeals filed by two governorship candidates of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) challenging the propriety of the dismissal of their petitions by the election petition tribunals on the ground that the petitions purportedly violated Section 285 (6) of the Constitution.

The candidate in Akwa Ibom State, James Udoedehe and his Benue State counterpart, Prof Steve Ugba, are challenging the decisions of the tribunals in striking out their petitions on the basis of the Supreme Court decision in All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP)  vs Goni and Action Alliance vs Independent National Electoral  Commission (INEC) otherwise known as Borno’s case).

The Supreme Court had in November last year ordered that the petitions of Akwa Ibom and Benue, be heard on merit.  

However, the Supreme Court Judgment in the Borno case was decided in line with Section 285 (6) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to the effect that, an electoral tribunal must deliver its judgment in writing within 180 days of filing a petition. 

This created a legal confusion, which affected  many petitions and cases pending in various courts, including the petitions of Akwa Ibom and Benue  ACN candidates. 

In view of the apex court’s decision in Borno’s case, the election tribunals declined a retrial on the ACN candidates’ petitions, citing the decision of the apex court in the Borno’s case.

The appellants argued that their appeals differed from those of Borno. 

They are also contending that the Borno case was heard and decided outside the time allowed by law; whereas their interlocutory appeals which gave rise to an order for a retrial on the merit, was heard and determined within the 180 days provided by law.

Their appeals now places the burden on the Supreme Court to say whether their order for a retrial was made in error or the election tribunals were right in refusing to give effect to their order for retrial by relying on the Borno case. 

The appellants are of the view that their appeals will settle not only the legal dispute between the parties in  the appeal; but provide answers to the debate on the effect and proper interpretation of Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution. 

They also argued that the provisions of Section 285  have created a legal confusion requiring amendment; whereas others are of the opinion that there is no confusion in the section but in the rigid interpretation of the section by the Supreme Court. 

The appellants observed that prior to the enactment of Section 285 (6), some election petitions and election appeals lingered and dragged on for more than three years, due to some frivolous applications by parties to frustrate hearing in election proceedings.

They noted that the law makers amended the constitution and introduced into it Section 285, which provides the time limit for the hearing and determination of election petitions. 

They querried the intention of the law makers in inserting Section 285 into the constitution; was it to create absurdity and injustice; chase parties away from the temple of justice or remove delay on the part of the tribunal to hear and deliver judgment in any  election petition?

 

:The Nation