A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has dismissed a suit challenging the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conclude, collate, and announce the governorship election results from Tafawa Balewa Local Government in Bauchi State.
In his ruling on Monday, the presiding judge Justice Inyang Ekwo dismissed the suit because the court lacked jurisdiction on the case.
He held that the submissions by counsel to the plaintiffs, Mr Ahmed Raji, that the court 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 and so, the court cannot dable into it,” the judge said.
“Instead, it will allow an Election Tribunal to make a pronouncement on the substantive matter.”
Justice Ekwo also ruled that the order to maintain status quo earlier granted in the case had been lifted.
The ruling has allowed INEC the freedom to proceed with its decision to collate and announce the results in the remaining locations in Bauchi State.
The state governor, Mr Mohammed Abubakar, and the All Progressives Congress (APC) had an ex parte application at the court on Monday last week.
This was to challenge the decision of the electoral body which said it would go ahead with the collation and announcement of results for the governorship election in Bauchi after the poll had been declared inconclusive.
Ruling on the application on March 19, Justice Ekwo stopped INEC from going on as scheduled but held that the order would last till the determination of the suit brought before the court by the two plaintiffs.
A day before the ruling, he ordered the electoral umpire to appear before him on Tuesday last week to show cause why the order sought by the two plaintiffs ought not to be granted.
Instead of complying with the order of the court, INEC represented, by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Tanimu Inuwa, approached the court with a motion challenging its jurisdiction.
But the counsel to the plaintiffs, Raji, had objected to the application of INEC, informing the court that the order directing INEC to show cause why the requests of the plaintiffs should not be granted had not been obeyed.
Inuwa, in his response, admitted that the order had not been complied with and requested to address the court orally on the issue.
The judge had, however, refused to grant the request and held that since the ex parte application was in writing and duly served on INEC, it behoved on the defendant to appear before the court with a written or formal response.
He then granted the interim injunction restraining INEC from resuming, concluding and announcing the governorship election result in Bauchi State, pending the determination of all issues raised by the plaintiffs in their originating summons.
Justice Ekwo also granted an accelerated hearing in the matter and ordered parties to appear before him on March 20 to present their positions in the substantive matter.