The Supreme Court yesterday witnessed legal fire works as Lawyers representing Jibrin Isah Echocho and Governor Idris Wada locked horns in a case that seeks to remove the incumbent as governor and to declare the plaintiff as governor of Kogi State.
Chief Chris Uche told the court that the appellant has no human right, no constitutional right, no vested right and no customary right to be the candidate of the party left alone to be governor.”
While adopting his briefs of arguments, Chief Wole Olanipekun who represented Isah, said the case was novel because it raised issues that had been decided before.
He said: “This appeal has no precedent in this country. It calls for your lordships intervention to protect the sanctity and potency of the judgment of the Supreme Court and the constitution of Nigeria.”
He argued that the 3rd December, 2011 governorship election held in Kogi State which was won by Wada was held in violation of the Supreme Court’s judgment that abruptly terminated the tenure of five states governors.
He said that that judgment of the Supreme Court should not be taken to have been overtaken by events caused by parties.
According to him, INEC disregarded the judgment of the Supreme Court when it chose to conduct the governorship election on December 3rd, 2011.
Responding INEC, Mr J.M.M. Majiyagbe urged the court to dismiss the appeal on the ground that the reliefs sought by Isah could only be granted by an election tribunal and not a Federal High Court.
He said: “The narrow issue is whether the federal high court can entertain electoral matters. Especially in the light of the reliefs sought by the appellant (Isah) one of which is that the court should set aside the Kogi governorship election.”
Chief Chris Uche, SAN who argued Wada’s case pointed out that the entire appeal revolved around the December 3rd, 2011 election governorship in Kogi state.
He reminded the Supreme Court that it had already held the election to be valid.
According to him, the Supreme Court had on 10 of September 2012 in another judgment upheld the December 3rd governor election in Kogi state.
Uche told the court that Isah did not take part in the election and that it was strange that he wanted to be declared the winner of the election he did not participate in.
He said: “The appellant sought to rely on the primary election of January 2011 which he won. But which was canceled. In the case of Sylva V PDP, Supreme Court held that the canceled primary had become no issue and no one could rely on it.”
He said that Isah was not consistent because he participated in the second primary but when he lost he turned around to ask that the process be voided.
He said that the appellant claimed reliefs that could not be granted by a Federal High Court.
He said the Supreme Court judgment which he relied on had nothing to do with when election should hold in any of the affected 5 states.
He said that Isah’s case had no foundation and should be dismissed.
He argued that the appellant waited two months after the election had been conducted before heading to the federal high court.
“My Lords, the appellant slept on his right assuming there was one,” Uche added.
He urged the court to dismiss the appeal for lacking in merit.
He said: “The appellant has no human right, no constitutional right, no vested right and no customary to be the candidate of the party left alone to be governor.”
Counsel to PDP, Chief Olusola Oke, said that section 285 (2) of the constitution vested exclusive jurisdiction in the election tribunal to determine issue relating to the conduct of elections.
He said the issue to be determined was whether the federal high court could entertain a suit challenging the candidature of a candidate after an election had been conducted?
He answered the question in the negative saying that the federal high court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain an action challenging the validity of an election.
Oke also told the court that PDP as a party had the right to abandon an earlier primary and conduct a new one.
He then asked: “Can a contestant who participated in the two primaries turn around to ask that one of the primaries be cancelled?”
He asked the court to hold that the proper forum to challenge the validity of the December 3rd, 2011 governorship election in Kogi was the Kogi state governorship election petition tribunal.
He said that once an election was conducted, the election could no longer be questioned in a regular court.
Oke also argued that the PDP had legal right to abandon a primary and conduct a new one.
According to him, the appellant was stopped from questioning the second primary after he had participated in it.
Replying on point of law, Olanipekun said his client could not have gone to the tribunal because his case did not fall within the grounds for filing a petition.
However, the court has reserved judgment till the February 21 2014.