Extra Year for Five Govs

THISDAY Newspaper

The Notice and Eight Grounds of Appeal, I had prepared after a painstaking research and filed on 8th March 2011 in suit no. FHC/ABJ/CS/651/2010 INEC vs. Chief Timipre Sylva and Others at the Federal High Court Abuja with receipt no. Z008854452 of 08/3/2011 for the Notice of Appeal and for the Motion for Stay of Execution pending the hearing and determination of the Appeal, the affidavit of extreme urgency, the affidavit in support and the written address, I was issued Receipt no. Z008854459 of 08/3/2011.

Hitherto, I had written to Professor Jega Chairman INEC on 28th Feb., 2011 expressing my dissatisfaction with the judgment of Hon. Justice Adamu Bello delivered on 23rd Feb., 2011 extending the tenure of office of five Governors namely Adamawa, Bayelsa, Cross River, Kogi and Sokoto States, out of my passion for the subject as a pro-democracy activist and a rights advocate, I said in my letter to the Hon. Chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, which was duly acknowledged and copied to Mr. Bowen, INEC Director of Legal Services in Abuja on 28/2/2011 that the debate on tenure elongation was begun by me before my sojourn to Georgetown University in Washington D.C., for my Fellowship in 2009. I am passionate like all democrats about deploring my legal skills to help our democratic endeavours. Hitherto, many hadn’t questioned Governors whose elections were annulled and re-run elections won and took a fresh term of four years easy. In 2009, I warned Ekiti State Governor Oni at the time not to think of expanding his tenure as it was outside the contemplation of our Constitution so to do and that was how what came to be an incisive public discourse started with my exposition of section 180(2) of the 1999 Constitution.

On my return from USA, I read of the lawsuit in Justice Bello’s court. Before then I had through the queries I issued on the interpretation of section 180(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, strenuously argued against tenure elongation. I debated it in the print and electronic media, with some colleagues, Senior Advocates of Nigeria, who had taken a contrary view in the public domain, and I won the debate culminating in the National Assembly amending section 180(2) to spell out more specifically the new s.180(2)A that reads: “in the determination of the four year term, where a re-run election has taken place and the person earlier sworn in wins the re-run election, the time spent in office before the date the election was annulled shall be taken into account”.

That was the first part of our victory against anti-democratic forces.
The second part was the challenges now thrown up in court. On my return from USA, I learnt of the case filed by the Governors, and then wrote to Bello J., on the 18th of November 2010, that I would prepare and submit an amicus brief to espouse on section 180(2) of our Constitution but His Lordship’s Court Registrar said His Lordship was of the opinion that I was late in the day in indicating my intention to submit amicus brief in the matter considering that senior lawyers had hitherto submitted their written addresses and it was getting to time for adoption of written addresses. I had no option than to await the outcome of the case. I was naturally unhappy to find months later that the pendulum had swung in favour of the five Governors and that upset my pro-democracy campaigns, to do nothing in the face of it?. No.! I was particularly unhappy because this is a Law driven by me to promote and preserve our democracy, the utmost values many of us we cherish.

As stated, I wrote to Professor Jega Chair INEC on 28/2/2011 and Mr. Bowen Director Legal Services of INEC was copied. In it, I told INEC that as an Activist Lawyer, I will file a Notice of Appeal on behalf of INEC, it being public interest litigation in an area that the law is somewhat recondite. I was not interested in the professional fees, I remarked. I paid over N=50,000 (Fifty Thousand Naira) from my personal pocket to process papers, photocopies, and sundry expenses. Happily I did cutting-edge legal research, well articulating the errors in the judgment and filed a Notice of Appeal; and upon all the parties being served, most of the press reported it on 10/3/2011. Before then, my office had on 8/3/2011 the same day we filed, delivered stamped copies of these court processes to the office of INEC Chair Jega and the office of the Director of Legal Services, Bowen Esq., each duly acknowledged.

I guess it was in exercise of the duties of his office, that Mr. Bowen, INEC Director of Legal Services had called me on my mobile phone after the press report two days after he had officially received it and said INEC does not want to proceed with the Motion for Stay of Execution and Notice of Appeal because the lawyers who did the case at the lower court were handling the matter. There was nothing else I could do; having placed before the public reading audience, the errors in the Judgment of Bello J., which I had set to upturn pro bono, to demonstrate that the judgment cannot stand the mustard test of appeal. More recent reports in some of the national dailies on Monday 21/3/2011, having now afforded me the opportunity of commenting more fully on the subject, I respectfully hereby urge INEC to prosecute the appeal for public good and to brief the Nigerian public with respect to the particulars in its Notice and Grounds of Appeal, which no member of the public has seen, so that we may scrutinize it and possibly advise. We have no other country but Nigeria. We note that the list of Governorship candidates on display online by INEC in the course of the week excluded Adamawa, Bayelsa, Cross River, Kogi and Sokoto States, meaning that right now INEC has no intention of holding elections in these States. Is this good for our democracy? Methinks not. May God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Dame Carol Ajie, LL.B (Hons), B.L.; MCIArb(London); LL.M(Georgetown)
(Professor Scholae Juris, Georgetown Law, Washington D.C., USA;


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