Court clears INEC to proceed with collation of Bauchi governorship election results

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An Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Monday gave the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the go-ahead with the collation of governorship election results in Bauchi State.

The court had earlier restrained the commission from doing so following a suit filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) as well as its candidate and incumbent governor of the state, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, praying the court to order the electoral body to stop further collation of the results after it (INEC) had announced a suspension.

Counsel for the plaintiffs, Mr. Ahmed Raji, had approached the court requesting among other things, an ex parte application preventing INEC from proceeding with its decision to collate results in the state.

The plaintiffs had prayed the court to hold that INEC was wrong in its decision to resume collation of results of the Bauchi State governorship election which it had declared inconclusive.

They also prayed the court to compel the electoral body to go ahead with the supplementary election which was earlier billed for March 23.

Besides, the applicants told the court that INEC had in a press statement that was signed by its national commissioner and chairman, information and voter education committee, Mr. Festus Okoye, on March 15, insisted on continuing the result collation process.

The APC and its candidate stressed that unless stopped by the court, INEC would collate the pending result from Tafawa Balewa local government area of the state and announce a final winner of the gubernatorial contest.

But in his ruling on Monday, Justice Inyang Ekwo held that the court lacked the requisite jurisdiction to adjudicate on post election matters even as he vacated the interim order that hitherto restrained the electoral body from going ahead with its plan to conclude the collation process and announce the final result.

The judge upheld INEC’s preliminary objection to the suit, stressing that the plaintiffs ought to have channelled their grievances to the election petition tribunal.

Clarifying an earlier decision made concerning an ex parte application, Justice Inyang Ekwo said there was never a time that his court granted the ex parte application made by Raji.

According to the judge, what the court ordered following the earlier application was an order for parties to maintain the status quo pending the determination of the suit before him.

The court also said Raji’s submissions that the tribunal could entertain an application emanating from an election matter “only after a return has been made is a temporary situation that does not have the capacity to stand for long.”

“The issue at hand happened during an election. And the complaint was also made as a result of an election, subsequently,” said Ekwo.

Subsequently he declined to give a pronouncement on the substantive matter and deferred his decision to allow the election tribunal to make a pronouncement on the substantive matter.

The court also ruled that the order to maintain the status quo earlier granted on the matter had been lifted, thus allowing INEC proceed with its decision made public in March 15.

It would be recalled that INEC had on that date announced its resolve to proceed with the collation of results after previously declaring the Bauchi election inconclusive.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won the previous election as well as the supplementary election conducted on March 23.

INEC could however not formally declare the PDP winner because of the court action.

Premium Times reports that the party’s candidate, Mr. Bala Mohammed, was present at Monday’s court session.

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