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TMCNet:  Ewuga VS Nagogo - Issues After Last Week's Judgment

[July 08, 2011]

Ewuga VS Nagogo - Issues After Last Week's Judgment

Jul 08, 2011 (Daily Trust/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) -- The case is a pre-election matter so the elections petition tribunal lacks jurisdiction over it. And the question to determine is who among Dr. Yusuf Musa Nagogo and Barrister Solomon Ewuga is the authentic senatorial candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) for Nasarawa North Senatorial district of Nasarawa during the April 9, 2011 election.

The CPC has already won the seat.

On June 28, 2011, Justice M. I. Awokulehin of the Federal High Court in Lafia ordered INEC to return Barrister Solomon Ewuga as winner of the election. The court ruled that Ewuga should take the place of Nagogo who was inaugurated on June 6th alongside other senators. But the euphoria which the judgment generated in Lafia and Nasarawa North itself was short-lived as the electoral commission failed to hand the certificate to him. Indeed it was one step forward, two backward.

INEC's Director of Legal Services Ibrahim Bawa, said the hands of the commission were tied because Nagogo had gone back to the court to seek stay of execution as well as appealed the ruling. Bawa claimed that INEC had already been served though he failed to say when the commission was served. But Ewuga argued the case is a pre-election matter "where a notice of appeal does not vitiate the order." In accordance with the electoral act as amended section 75(2), INEC should issue Certificate of Return to the beneficiary of the judgment within 48 hours, failing which the National Assembly can go ahead to inaugurate the beneficiary. It looks a juicy option but after the judgment, Nagogo had been sighted in the red chambers, an action suggesting that the coast isn't clear yet for any of the two contending parties.

Barrister Ewuga who the CPC recognises as its candidate in the election, and who the judgement of the High Court favoured, said he had not been served with any notice of stay of execution and blames INEC for breaching the law by its failure to hand him the certificate of return within 48 hours. National Secretary of the CPC Buba Galadima also told Daily Trust yesterday that the party had not been served any court papers.

Speaking to Daily Trust, Ewuga said: "The electoral act as amended says within 48 hours of an order, the beneficiary of the court judgment must be enrolled, failing which INEC will be in breach of the law." When reminded about the stay of execution sought by his opponent, Ewuga said: "A motion for stay of execution has to be served on the party. I haven't been served and I'm not sure INEC has been served. I am the active party. If you are trying to get a stay of execution in a matter that favours me, I should be served. If I am not served I don't know how INEC could have been served. As I am talking to you court processes are still on," he said.

But is he also pursuing the section 75(2) option? "Yes, this and other options," he said. "You recall the case of Eseme Eyibo which took place in the House of Reps last week. There is no way Eyibo would have been inaugurated if the administrative system in the National Assembly has not been activated to clear that process," he added.

Nagogo could not be reached for comments as his number failed to get through up to press time. But he told Daily Trust last week that he remained the senator representing Nasarawa North because he had appealed the judgment of the High Court. Nagogo is one of the politicians who took the CPC to Nasarawa State and until the defection of Ewuga from the PDP, he was the sole candidate for the Senate in that district.

The journey to the present stalemate began with the primary of the parties in January when two primary elections were held on January 11 and January 15, the latter being the one recognised by the national secretariat of the CPC. Shortly after Ewuga's defection to the CPC, he applied for waiver to contest the senatorial election in a letter dated January 10.

Following this and the consideration of his political influence over his Eggon ethic group, the largest in the zone, the party felt it made a big catch. So in a letter dated January 12, 2011, the CPC national headquarters communicated to the Nasarawa State chapter of the party granting Ewuga's request for waiver to contest the election. The letter was signed by Deputy National Chairman Mustafa Saliu.

The party was then said to have shifted the congress earlier slated for 11th to 15th January during which Ewuga emerged winner. But Nagogo had gone in for the January 11th congress where he emerged unopposed. And to his credit, his name appeared on INEC's website up to the time certificates of return were issued. National Secretary of the party said the secretariat had forwarded several correspondences to INEC detailing its candidate, Solomon Ewuga, for the election.

At the court, the party sought a declaration from the court that INEC, 1st defendant, "has no vires or statutory power to reject the name of any candidate sponsored by a political party for elective position or compel any political party to sponsor any particular candidate for an election" and that "the submission of candidates for election is the exclusive preserve of the political party concerned under the law." The court granted in its ruling.

The case can get up to the Supreme Court since it is in the regular court. Though the people had voted, it is for the court to decide. For now, it is left to see how soon the matter will be over.

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