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Court to rule in suit seeking to stop Buhari’s ministerial inauguration on Monday

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The Federal High Court Abuja will, on Monday, deliver its ruling in a suit, seeking to stop President Muhammadu Buhari from inaugurating the 43 ministerial nominees over the exclusion of an FCT indigene from his cabinet list.

The applicant, Mr Musa Baba-panya, who was also the counsel in the case, had, on Thursday, approached the court with an exparte motion, asking the court to stop the president from going ahead with the inauguration.

President Buhari is the 1st defendant while the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) is the 2nd defendant in the case.

Nigeria News Agency reports that the president would be inaugurating the 43 ministers-designate earlier confirmed by the Senate on Aug. 21.

The Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation had, on Aug. 6, said that the inauguration would hold at the Federal Executive Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Baba-panya, who argued that the Appeal Court’s ruling was a compelling order, said it was served on the president through the AGF.

The lawyer, in an originating summons dated Aug. 7 and filed Aug. 8, said that ”the 43 confirmed ministerial appointees now awaiting swearing-in or inauguration as the Federal Executive Council is incomplete, illegal, unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect whatsoever.”

Baba-panya, who was in court with another lawyer, Sylvanus Tanko, prayed the court to grant an interim injunction restraining the president from inaugurating the confirmed ministers-designate pending the determination of the motion on notice.

He said allowing the president to go on with his decision would mean that ”he is going to constitute an illegal cabinet.”

According to him, the violation of the FCT indigene’s rights to ministerial representation has been going on since May 29, 1999.

”So it is not a personal issue. All previous presidents have also violated our rights,” he said.

He said despite the fact that President Buhari presently has 43 ministerial-designate, he was yet to meet ”the minimum requirement of the constitution which is at least one minister each from the 36 states including FCT, making a total of 37.”

He said:”if the court would not be inclined to grant the interim injunction order, we have prayed in the alternative for the court to issue an order on the Mr President and the AGF to come and show course why it should not issue an interim injunction.”

He said he had a substantive suit which seeks 12 reliefs and five issues to be determined.

He reminded that efforts had been made since July for the matter to be heard.

The lawyer, however, wanted the court to determine ”whether 1st defendant is an offender of the Oath of Allegiance and Office, and a contemptnor of a valid court judgment and the rule of law.

”Whether 1st defendant is no longer a fit and proper person to continue holding or remain in the office as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and if so what consequences?

”Whether damages and costs are not only warranted but same are to be so awarded.”

Justice Taiwo Taiwo, therefore, ordered that the suit should commence during the vacation period of the court.

The judge struck out the initial application restraining the Senate from conducting the confirmation of the ministerial nominees as prayed by the plaintiff and adjourned the matter until Aug. 19 for ruling.

edited by Sadiya Hamza

Judiciary

Buhari, APC urge tribunal to dismiss Atiku, PDP petition on technicalities, evidential grounds

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President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC have urged the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal to dismiss the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its Candidate Atiku Abubakar challenging the Feb.23 general election on technicalities and evidential grounds.

The prayers formed the gamut of other requests contained in both Buhari and APC final addresses to be adopted on Aug.23 made available to Nigeria News Agency on Sunday in Abuja.

The respondents had described Abubakars address that urged the tribunal to sack Buhari and affirm him (Abubakar) president, as a “wild goose chase prayer’’.

They alleged that PDP erroneously allowed a candidate who was not a Nigerian by birth to contest the highest position, adding that such was an adventure that violated the provision of the Constitution.

The president and his party therefore prayed the tribunal to invoke Section 131 (a) of the constitution to dismiss the petition.

NAN reports that section 131 (a) of the constitution strictly holds that a person must be a citizen of Nigeria by birth to qualify to contest the office of the president.

They noted that Atiku was born on Nov.25, 1946 in Jada, a former Adamawa Province of Northern Cameroon before a plebiscite was conducted in 1961 that now made the enclave part of Nigeria.

The parties therefore, alleged that Abubakar was not qualified to enter the contest as the constitution forbade him from canvassing for votes to become a president.

“We pray that the tribunal will see this constitutional reason and go ahead to uphold the election of the second respondent (Buhari) forthwith’’, they prayed.

On evidence admitted from the petitions, the two respondents said they were empty as none had substantially proven series of the allegations made against the conduct of the election.

They explained that none of the 75 witnesses and 31, 287 exhibits which included 48 video clips had not proved any of the petitioners’ allegations.

They said the petitioners had tried to mislead the tribunal and public that results from the election were transmitted electronically to a central server managed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The respondents noted that it was public knowledge that the Feb.23 general election was conduct with the Electoral Act of 2010 as amended.

“Moreover, the laws in Nigeria do not recognize but actually prohibit transmission of  results electronically.

“Sections 52 and 78 of the Electoral Act 2010 have categorically addressed the issue.

“The only means of transmitting election results under the law are through Forms EC8 series. Form EC8A conveys results from Polling Units.

“It is only through these approved forms that election results can be challenged or proven and not through server, imaginary or real,’’ they submitted.

The parties therefore submitted that the petitioners’ allegation on the use of server by INEC to transmit results was “criminal and misguided’’.

“Atiku Abubakar and the PDP have failed in their attempt to stridently prove their petition.

“The petitioners failed woefully to establish by credible evidence the existence of the imaginary server belonging to INEC,’’ they argued.

They argued that most of the witnesses presented by the petitioners attested to the fact that they signed all the Forms the contained the results of the election without coercion.

Buhari and APC therefore averred that such testimonies of truth from the petitioners’ witnesses further bestowed legitimacy on the outcome of the election.

On Buhari’s educational qualification, they said that the petitioners failed to adduce credible and reliable evidence to establish that he (Buhari) indeed forged his certificate.

“While it is appropriate to debunk such baseless, mendacious and spurious assertion, it suffices to bring to fore the unequivocal provision of the constitution.

“The constitution is clear on this as it states the requirement for a candidate to contest the presidential election and occupy the office of the president.

“Section 131(d) provided that a person shall be qualified for election into the office of the president if he or she has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.

“ More so, the consequence of submitting a forged document to INEC is grave.

“It therefore requires precise evidence and proof beyond reasonable doubt, which the petitioners have not been able to establish,’’ the respondents said.

Drawing reference from the constitution, the respondents defined a secondary school certificate or its equivalent to mean: secondary school certificate or its equivalent, or Grade II Teacher’s certificate.

They listed others to include: City and Guide certificate or Education up to secondary school certificate level or Primary Six Scholl Leaving Certificate or its equivalent and Service in the public or private sector in the Federation in any capacity acceptable to INEC for a minimum of 10 years.

“It is apparent that from the pleadings and evidence adduced led by the petitioners; there is no scintilla or iota of evidence to prove that the president was at the time of the election not qualified.

“It is trite that how who asserts must prove, we have clearly seen that the petitioners had failed woefully in this matter.

“In the circumstance, we urge the tribunal to dismiss the petition on the grounds of both technicalities and evidential failure and to affirm the election of the president,’’ they submitted.

NAN reports that the president, who contested the election on the platform of the APC, was announced winner having scored a total of 15 million votes as against Abubakar’s 11,262,978 votes.

NAN further reports that the Justice Mohammed Garba-led five man panel awaits the parties to adopt their final addresses on Aug.21 preparatory to judgment.

edited by Sadiya Hamza

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Ortom closes case at tribunal, expresses confidence in judiciary to uphold justice

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Gov Samuel Ortom of Benue on Saturday, closed his case at the ongoing Benue Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal in Makurdi and expressed confident that the tribunal will deliver justice.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Ortom, who on Saturday, stormed the courtroom with a litany of aides, party supporters and well-wishers, did not give evidence.

Speaking on behalf of his client, lead counsel to the governor, Mr Sabastine Hon (SAN), told the court that the governor had decided to close his case after having a cursory look at the evidence presented by the petitioner.

He said the onus of proving the case rested with the petitioner.

“After taking a critical look at the evidence provided by the petitioners, we have come to the inevitable conclusion that we will not be calling any further witnesses.”

However, counsel to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Oba Maduabuchi (SAN), who was next in line to open his case,  asked the court to grant him adjournment till Monday, Aug. 19 to do that.

He said he would call five witnesses and close his case.

Both parties in the suit agreed to the request and the tribunal chairman, Justice Henry Olusiyi, thereafter, adjourned the matter to Monday, Aug. 19.

Speaking to journalists after the sitting, Gov Ortom, expressed confidence in the court to uphold justice, claiming  that  the 2019 governorship election in Benue was free, fair and credible.

Also Speaking to journalists on why he decided to call only one witness, Ortom’s counsel,  Hon,  said the statement on oath of the petitioner himself and his star witness for the whole state, Joe Abaagu were not signed, and therefore, not substantial.

NAN recalls that both Ortom and the PDP had requested the court to disqualify Mr Abaagu from testifying on the basis that his statements on oath were not signed and proceeded to appeal against the decision of the tribunal to allow the witness to testify.

The tribunal had argued that it would rule on the eligibility of the witness to testify in its final judgment on the petition, a position that was upheld by the Appeal court.

 

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Ex-Gov Yari seeks court’s intervention over sealed Abuja property

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Former Governor of Zamfara, Abdulaziz Yari, on Friday, prayed the Federal High Court Abuja, to direct the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to unseal his property located at Maitama, Abuja.

Yari, in an exparte motion brought by his Counsel, Mahmud Magaji, SAN, said the EFCC sealed the property contrary to the provision of the law.

Nigeria News Agency reports that the the Federal High Court Abuja had, earlier in the day, granted the ICPC leave to freeze some funds in Yari’s Zenith and Polaris Bank.

Magaji, who said that the application was to ensure each government agencies operates within the confines of the law, urged the judge ”to invoke his power to direct the EFCC to remove the red inscription pasted on the house.”

Citing a previous case in which a court delivered judgment in favour of an applicant, the lawyer said the commission cannot seal a property without a court order.

He said the application was supported by 11-paragraph affidavit and also supported by a written address dated Aug. 16.

”We adopt same in urging your Lordship to grant our application as prayed,” he said.

Magaji also told the court that he was with a motion exparte dated Aug. 15 and filed the same day, and brought in accordance with the provisions of the fundamental human rights.

“It is supported by a 17-paragraph affidavit. We also have affidavit of urgency with 9 paragraphs.

“We also have a further affidavit of five paragraphs and the same further affidavit has four exhibits marked Exhibits M (a) M (2), M (a) M (3), M (a) M(4) and M(a) M(5).

“It also has a written. address and we adopt same in urging your Lordship to grant our application as prayed,” he said.

The counsel argued that in as much as the applicant did not intend to prevent any government agency from performing its function, due process of the law must be followed in carrying out such duty.

”We urge your Lordship to direct parties to maintain status quo pending the determination of the suit,” Magaji said.

Justice Taiwo Taiwo, who ordered that the case be heard during the vacation period, however adjourned the matter till Aug. 19 for ruling.

edited by Sadiya Hamza

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Police arraign Enugu monarch for alleged attempted kidnap

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 Police in Enugu State has arraigned the traditional ruler of Obeagu Ugwuaji, Awkunanaw Autonomous Community of the state, Igwe Christopher Nyia for alleged attempted kidnapping among other charges.

Nyia, 60, was arraigned before an Enugu South Magistrates Court presided over by Mr A. P. C. Amalu on four count charges allegedly committed with others at large in November, 2014.

Nyia was said to have willfully and unlawfully destroyed the house of one Hillary Okoye valued at N1.6 million and committed an offence punishable under sect. 451 of the same law.

He was said to have also unlawfully detained one Chinaza Agah against her will and, thereby, committed an offence punishable under Sect. 365 of the Criminal Code Act.

The last charge was that the monarch attempted to kidnap one Chinaza Agah and, thereby, committed an offence punishable under Sect. 86 (1) of the Criminal Code Act.

When the charges were read, the monarch pleaded not guilty and elected for summary trial.

The defense counsel, Prof. Osita Ogbu applied for the quashing of the charges against his client on grounds that the case had earlier been heard and dismissed by an Enugu Magistrates Court in 2016.

Ogbu said the case was dismissed due to lack of diligent prosecution.

The counsel, who tendered the certified copies of the proceedings, said it was surprising that the prosecution would bring up the matter again.

The defense counsel also said the laws on the basis of which his client was arraigned, did not apply to Enugu State.

He said the law was a creation of the National Assembly adding that the body had no constitutional powers to make laws for an offence applicable to Enugu state.

Ogbu said that criminalisation was a residual matter under the 1999 Constitution and amended except in treasonable felony.

He said his client was charged under the criminal code applicable in Abuja, adding that Enugu State had its own Criminal Procedure Law.

“The powers to enact general criminal laws are incidental which is not applicable here. These offences are under the legislative powers of the state assembly,” he said.

He said that under Sect. 36 (12) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, “a person could only be brought to the court for an offence prescribed by a valid law.

“We urge the court to quash the charges and discharge the accused person as he is not charged under any valid law,” he said.

Ogbu however, applied for the bail of his client should the court find no valid reason to quash the charges.

He said that the monarch was conscientiously attending court proceedings even when the prosecution was not attending prior to the initial dismissal of the case in 2016.

However, the prosecution counsel, Mr D. T. Abi opposed the bail application on the grounds that the allegations were heinous.

Abi however, told the court that the case was not dismissed on its merits but on technical grounds.

He said that under the circumstance, the police have the powers to re-arrest and bring the accused back to the court.

He said the charges were applicable to the state as the NASS had the powers to make laws for good governance of all parts of the country.

Abi prayed the court to discountenance the submissions of the defense counsel and deny bail.

However, Amalu granted the accused bail for N1 million and one surety in like sum.

The matter was adjourned until Sept. 2 for hearing.

The Nigeria News Agency recalls that members of Obeagu Ugwuaji Awkunanaw Autonomous Community had earlier trooped out en mass in solidarity with their monarch.

 

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Court grants ICPC’s request to freeze bank accounts linked to ex-Gov Yari

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The Federal High Court Abuja, on Friday, gave the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) a go-ahead to freeze the Polaris and Zenith Bank accounts linked to the immediate-past Governor of Zamfara, Abdulaziz Yari, pending the conclusion of its investigation.

Nigeria News Agency reports that the account numbers, with United State (US) dollars and Nigerian naira, are domiciled in Zenith and Polaris Banks.

Akponimisingha, who is a Senior Legal Officer with the commission, said the motion exparte was dated Aug. 5 and filed on Aug. 6.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that Mr Yari, Kayatawa Nigeria Limited and B.T. Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited are 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents respectively.

The lawyer told Justice Taiwo Taiwo that the commission sought the order of the court based on the law that gives the court the jurisdiction to hear the case.

He said the motion was brought in accordance with “Section 17 (1), (2), (3) and (4) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act 2006; Section 48 (1), (2) and (3) (a) and (b) of the Corruption Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000, and Section 6 (6) (a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).”

The counsel stated that the Zenith Bank account numbers include: 1001381684 with N12.9m; 1010757436 with. 11.1m; 5360050304 with $301, 319.99; 1012556798 with N217, 388.04; 5364669609 with $311, 872.15 and the Polaris account number: 2110000928 with $56, 056.75.

He said the motion prayed for 10 orders “and nine orders are the main while the tenth order is omnibus.”

According to him, the applicant is praying the court for an order of interim forfeiture of all the funds being proceeds of some unlawful activity allegedly stashed in the Zenith and Polaris Banks.

He explained that the Zenith Bank account numbers: 1001381684 was in the name of Abdulaziz Abubakar Yari; 1010757436 and 5360050304 were in the name of Kayatawa Nigeria Limited.

He said while the Polaris Bank account number: 2110000928 was in the name of Mr Yari, the Zenith Bank account numbers: 1012556798 and 5364669609 were in the name of B.T. Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited.

Akponimisingha, who said that the respondents did not acquire the alleged funds legitimately, said the commission received an intelligent report that the respondents involved in some unlawful activity against the interest of the Zamfara State government and by extension the Federal Government of Nigeria.

He said that while the 1st respondent was the immediate-past Governor of Zamfara State, the 2nd and 3rd respondents are limited liability companies registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) with the 1st respondent (Yari) as director and shareholder respectively.

“We pray for an order restraining any person or persons, whether human, juristic or artificial, not to part with, deal with, deal in or otherwise dispose of such property or any part thereof the said accounts pending the determination of the matter,” he said.

He also urged the judge to direct Zenith and Polaris Banks to fix the alleged proceeds of crime in the aforesaid accounts in interest yielding accounts pending the respondents show cause why the funds should not be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

In his ruling, Justice Taiwo, who granted nine of the prayers sought by the ICPC, asked the commission to put the respondents on notice and the publication be made in The Punch Newspaper within seven days, excluding today (Aug. 16).

He also said that the respondents should within 14 days file an affidavit on why the money should not be forfeited.

The judge thereafter adjourned the matter till Sept. 11.

edited by Sadiya Hamza

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