Sokoto Guber: Court to Hear Suit Seeking Tambuwal’s Removal, May 23

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has fixed May 23, for definite hearing of a suit filed by Senator Dahiru Umar and Barrister Aliyu Abubakar Sanyinna, seeking the nullification of election of Aminu Tambuwal as Governor of Sokoto State.
The plaintiffs predicated the suit on the ground that Tambuwal was wrongly nominated by the All Progressives Congress (APC) as its governorship candidate in the April 11, 2015 election.
Specifically, the plaintiffs had contended in their motion on notice filed on January 27, 2015, that the December 4, 2014, primary election conducted by APC which produced Tambuwal was “hallowed ritual, a sham and in gross violation of Section 87 of the 2010 Electoral Act and the APC 2014 election guidelines.
However, the legal action went as far as to the Supreme Court, wherein on December 9, 2016, the apex court remitted the case file back to the Federal High Court for a fresh trial on the ground that there is life in the case in spite of the conduct of the governorship election that produced Tambuwal.
The apex court had disagreed with Tambuwal in his claim that the case of the plaintiff challenging his nomination by APC had become academic and hypothetical.
At a resumed sitting Wednesday, the trial judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, noted that in about four weeks time, the 2nd defendant (Tambuwal) would have gone half term in his tenure.
The court reasoned that for the case to linger would be a spectacle which will do the country’s legal system no good.
“This is why the Supreme Court called for expeditious hearing of the matter”, he said.
Justice Kolawole equally noted that the plaintiff had filed a written address and same was replied to by the 1st defendant (APC), while the 2nd defendant has not filed.
In view of this, the court asked if the 2nd defendant can be shut out for not filing an address?
However, the court was of the opinion that shutting them out will undermine justice.
“What went to the Supreme Court is a narrow issue of jurisdiction and it is legitimate for plaintiff to file an affidavit and thus.
“In essence, hearing cannot proceed today, its for mention, and the 2nd defendant is given an opportunity within 14 days to join issues with the plaintiff’s written address.
“But while this processes are being filed, court reminded parties not to do anything to delay the course of justice.
“Allowance is not invitation to file frivolous application by counsel to prolong suit. Hearing and adoption shall be on May 23 at 1PM,” the court ordered.
Earlier, counsel to the plaintiff, Roland Otaru holding brief for Awa Kalu, SAN, reminded the court that the Supreme Court had decided that the matter be heard expeditiously.
But reacting, Jibrin Okutepa, SAN, representing the 1st defendant (APC) said he was ready to obey the injunction of the Supreme Court, but that the plaintiff is putting obstacle to hearing of the matter expeditiously.
Okutepa told the court that it was only on April 13, 2017, that he was served with two processes.
Firstly, a notice of change of address of service of court processes in which they listed of names of lawyers of plaintiff excluding names of lawyers on record.
He argued that what the plaintiff counsel referred to as “change of address” was indeed “change of counsel” which ought not to be done without leave of court in line with Order 9 rule 36(2) of the Federal High Court Rules.
“Going by the rules of this court, this change of address is not competent and Otaru cannot argue this matter.
“Therefore, we pray the court that this motion on notice filed without observance of provisions of Order 9 rules 35 and 36 be struck out” the APC submitted.
Secondly, he informed Justice Kolawole that the second process served on the 1st defendant on the same 13th April was what they called “further affidavit” in support of the originating summon.
“My Lord, I have not been served notice by the plaintiff seeking leave of court to file the process.
“By Order 3, rule 9(1), it is set out that a party commencing an originating summon must be accompanied by an affidavit and when serving it outside time, leave of court must be secured in line with Order 27 rule 4, Okutepa stated.
“Therefore, the further affidavit is incompetent and should be struck out”, he urged the court.
On his part, Tambuwal’s counsel, Sunday Ameh SAN associated himself with the submission of Okutepa.
He added that from the processes filed on April 13, 2017 by the plaintiff, Otaru was described as plaintiff solicitors, pointing out that “There is no mention of Prof Awa Kalu, Ikoro, who are on record in this case.
Ameh referred the court to the originating summon of the plaintiff filed on 27 January 2015, wherein names of counsel to the plaintiff were clearly set out, stressing that one Abdul Hameed had sometime appeared with Ikoro, a counsel on record.
“On the issue of the plaintiff being ready to argue the originating summon, upon being served with the originating processes, the 2nd defendant filed on March 25, 2015, we filed a counter affidavit without a written address, Ameh said.
He posited that filing of written address in support of an originating summon must be done in line with court’s direction as provided by Order 22.
However, Ameh insisted that the written address of the plaintiff was filed without leave of court, and therefore asked for an adjournment to enable him do the needful.
Lawyer to INEC, I.S Mohammed expressed readiness to take the originating summon, but with an exception that “I can’t confirm the services of those processes on the INEC.
“I was just called by the Deputy Director Litigation to appear in this matter. The counsel that appeared in the last sitting is no more with the commission and has not passed any information, Mohammed said.
“However, if the court’s records confirm service, I align with the submissions of counsel to the 1st defendant for an adjournment.
On his part, Otaru urged the to discountenance all objection raised by the 1st and 2nd defendant’s counsel describing it as “vexatious”.
“Earlier, I announced that I was holding brief for Kalu, and nobody has come to say I did not have consent of Kalu to appear in this matter.
“In addition, change of address is not tantamount to change of counsel, rules of court are very clear and unambiguous on this.
“I announced other counsel in the chambers of Kalu and what prejudice did they suffer by my appearance, Otaru queried.
“If that is the case, I am withdrawing the notice of change of address.
“The 2nd issue is regarding competence of my written address. It is competent without recourse to Order 22.
He referred the court to Order 13 rule 35(15), wherein it was stated that a defendant shall file counter affidavit and written address within 14 days.
“My point is that there is no rule precluding the defendant from filing written address and the originating summon is not yet part heard, so we don’t need leave of court to file processes.
“All our processes are legal and competent, the objection of the defendants is like killing a fly with a sledge hammer and if allowed, would circumvent the direction of the apex court.
The court adjourned to May 23 for further hearing on the matter.

Author: News Editor

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