Nyako's deputy is governor as High Court sacks Fintiri

THE NATION Newspaper

Adamawa State got a new helmsman yesterday.
Bala James Ngilari, impeached Governor Murtala Nyako’s deputy for over seven years, was proclaimed governor by a Federal high Court sitting in Abuja. He took the oath of office at about 3:10 p.m.

Mr. Justice Adeniyi Ademola’s verdict in the suit between Ngilari, the House Speaker and five others is that Acting Governor Umar Ahmadu Fintiri should quit the seat because Ngilari did not resign properly.

Ngilari’s purported resignation from office paved the way for Fintiri, who was Speaker, to be sworn in in July after Nyako’s impeachment.

Justice Ademola also ruled that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should stop Saturday’s by-election.

Fintiri told his counsel, former Attorney General and Minister of Justice Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN), to file an appeal “within 20 minutes” of the judgment.

That, however, did not stop Ngilari’s swearing-in at the Conference Room of the Government House in Yola.

Nothing prepared Adamawa stakeholders for yesterday’s landmark judgment.

Fintiri was at a stakeholders meeting in Yola, organised by INEC for participants in the planned by-election.

The PDP had also planned its mega rally ahead of the election.

In Ojo’s view, Ngilari should not have been sworn in because he had appealed the judgment.

In a statement, he said: “The implication of this is that the orders of the court cannot be complied with until the appeal process is disposed of. This is the position of the law as the law allows anyone who is challenging an order of a court not to obey such order until his constitutional right of appeal is exhausted.

“This is to forestall a situation where a fait accompli will be foisted on the Appeal Court.

“While we disagree with the reasoning of the learned judge, the whole world knew that the former deputy governor did actually resign through his two letters of resignation to the speaker and the former governor separately.

“We shall out of respect for the court not want to comment on the merit of the case. We are, however, confident that justice shall prevail at the end of the day.”

Ngilari’s inauguration elicited jubilation from the staff. President of the Customary Court Hon Justice Audu Lawan Lagre administered the oath of office and allegiance.

The tenure of the Acting Chief Judge, Justice Ambrose Mamadi, has expired.

Section 185(2) of the 1999 Constitution provides for administration of oath on a governor by the Chief Judge, the Grand Khadi of the Court of Appeal or the President of the Customary Court of Appeal.

Decked in white kaftan with a white cap to match, Ngilari headed for the empty seat of the governor, shortly after he was inaugurated amidst ovation from former governors and some Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders at the Government House.

At the ceremony were a former governor of the defunct Gongola State, Wilberforce Juta; a former Military Administrator of Lagos State, Gen. Buba Marwa and the Minister of Youth Development, also a former governor Mr. Boni Haruna.

But some key members of the State Executive Committee (SEC) of the PDP were absent.

Also, only a member of the Adamawa State House of Assembly witnessed the ceremony as others were said to “be on recess”.

Shortly after his inauguration, Ngilari made a broadcast in which he promised to be fair to all in the multi-ethnic and multi-religious state.

He said: “My emergence as the governor of Adamawa State was divinely controlled by God. Power belongs to God and he gives it in trust to whosoever he wills.

“I pledge to run an open, transparent and an all inclusive government that will give hope to our women, the aged and guarantee the future of our youths.

“There are enormous challenges before the state government. I wish to call on the people to join hands with me to build a united, virile and vibrant state that will bring about socioeconomic development of the state.

“I pledge commitment, I am determined to work in partnership with all citizens to address our challenges which are not limited to general security, poverty, hunger, reconciliation and disease and creating enabling environment where peace and harmony exist.”

Ngilari pleaded with the people to live in peace and harmony.

He added: “Without peace, no meaningful development could be achieved. We must rise above primordial differences of religion, ethnicity and political affiliation and be united to fight the evil of corruption, greed and other vices impeding the progress of the state.”

He sought the cooperation of the Legislature, the Judiciary and the Civil Service to develop the state.

Ngilari assured all that he would be “a law-abiding and loyal member of the PDP, and to President Goodluck Jonathan”.

Following the declaration of Ngilari as the governor, INEC Chairman Attahiru Jega and a former Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday suspended their election-related activities in Yola.

Prof. Jega called off a stakeholder’s session with political parties and candidates for the botched governorship poll. Gen. Buhari suspended a rally for the APC governorship candidate, Senator Bindow Umaru Jibrilla.

Jega, who had a three-minute audience with the stakeholders, said: “As a law-abiding institution, INEC has decided to put the rerun governorship election in Adamawa State on hold until there is a court pronouncement otherwise.

Buhari said: “Nigeria is a democratic country and practitioners of democracy must key in into the tenets of democracy and the rule of law.”

Ngilari’s first official function after the broadcast was the appointment of Mr. Chubadu Tijjani as Chief of Staff.

Fintiri attempted to hold on to power but he was stripped of his security aides after the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, said in Abuja that the judgment should be implemented immediately and that Ngilari be sworn into office.

Adoke said: “The Federal High Court, by its judgment under reference, nullified the swearing-in of Ahmadu Umar Fintiri as the Acting Governor of Adamawa State and declared the resignation of James Bala Ngilari as unconstitutional, null and void.

“In obedience to the judgment of the court and the need to avert a vacuum in governance and possible constitutional crises, the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, hereby calls on the Chief Judge of Adamawa State to immediately swear in Barrister James Ngilari as the Governor of Adamawa State.

“The Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission is also called upon, in obedience to the judgment of the Federal High Court to keep in abeyance all the arrangements made for the conduct of the bye-elections scheduled to take place in Adamawa State on Saturday 11th October, 2014.”

Fintiri stayed put at the Dougirei Government House because “we have filed an appeal” his aides and political associates remained with him, until his security detail was withdrawn and the judge who later sworn in Ngilari was escorted into the Government House.

FIntiri may also lose the opportunity to remain as Speaker because he is from the same constituency as Ngilari.


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