Kogi Guber: Court of Appeal usurping powers of tribunal, group alleges

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A civil society organization, the Northern Initiative for the Defence of Democracy and Justice, has accused the Court of Appeal of usurping the powers of the Kogi State Governorship Petition Tribunal.

The Co-ordinator of the group, Nureeddeen Sadiq, while addressing a press conference on Monday in Abuja, said if such unhindered interruption was allowed, the future is bleak for the judiciary and the entire country.

He said: “The Nigeria judiciary is at it again, with the recent Appeal Court’s decision in Abuja attempting to revise and over-rule the earlier decision of the Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting also in Abuja.

“Ths earlier decision of the tribunal was that all parties involved in the case should jointly inspect the materials used in the 11th November, 2023 governorship election, which should be a major path to determine the veracity of claims and counter-claims at the tribunal.

“It came as a major surprise to many of us in the Northern Initiative for the Defence of Democracy and Justice who have been following the activities and openness of the Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.

“This is just the first time in recent years that an appellate court will be meddling, interrupting and usurping the true powers of a tribunal and trying to distract it from performing its traditional role.

“Our fear is that if such unhindered interruption is allowed then, the future is blink for the judiciary and the entire country.”

The group noted that the tribunal, which is a direct fact-finding panel, has all the powers to issue directives and orders on the mode of its operations in order to accomplish its duties.

The group recalled that the tribunal on the 25th November, 2023 made many orders in favour of the petitioners — Muritala Ajaka and the Social Democratic Party, SDP, saying one such order was inspection of electoral materials used for the November 11, 2023, Governorship Election of Kogi State.

It explained that the orders were duly served on Usman Ododo of the All Progressives Congress, APC, by substituted means on the 18th December 2023 together with the petition.

The group added that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the 1st Respondent in the petition, wrote to all the parties in the matter for a meeting with a view to draw up modalities of complying with orders of the tribunal.

The group stressed the meeting was held on the 29th of December, 2023 at the INEC headquarters with all the parties duly represented, adding that inspections were agreed to be commenced on the 4th of January, 2024.

It explained that on the 1st of January, 2024, J B Daudu, SAN, wrote that he had instruction from Ododo not to take part in the inspection on the ground that he was yet to be served personally with the orders of inspections.

According to the group, Ododo, through his lawyer, filed a motion to set aside the inspection on the ground that he was not personally served, but the motion was opposed by the legal team of the petitioners. The tribunal dismissed the motion.

Ododo further appealed the decision at the Court of Appeal.

The group added: “The appeal was duly heard, and judgment was delivered on the 1st of March 2024.

“In the judgment delivered on 1st March 2024, the Court of Appeal agreed that the tribunal was right to hold that Ahmed Ododo was duly served.

“The court also agreed that the tribunal has the power to make the orders of inspections it made except orders G, K, and N. The Court of Appeal then ordered that inspections done be set aside and fresh inspections conducted with Ododo participating.”

The group maintained that the orders granted by the Court of Appeal were never prayed for either in the motion filed on the 9th of January 2024 or in the Notice of Appeal filed on the 9th of February 2024.